The Tilden family traces its roots back to some of the earliest English settlers in what is now the United States. Nathaniel Tilden, a ship’s carpenter in Kent, England, helped to outfit the Mayflower for its voyage to the New World. (Another ancester of the family, Edward Doty, was a member of the Pilgrims who traveled aboard the Mayflower to their new home.) Nathaniel the Elder, as he was known, then made the journey to Massachusettes himself in 1634 aboard the ship Hercules; he began the story of the Tildens in America.
In the 1770s, Nathaniel’s great-great grandson Israel Tilden Sr. relocated south from Massachusettes to Long Isalnd, and settled in the village of Huntington. In 1779 he married Elizabeth Wicks, one of the daughters of a prominent Huntington family. He purchased what is now Tilden Lane Farm from his wife’s family in 1793 for 240 pounds. His son, Israel Junior, was born in 1789. He married Sarah Ann Oakes in 1812 and built a home for them that still stands today on Tilden Lane.
The original Tilden homestead, built by Israel Jr. in the early 1800s and added onto by his son John.
Israel Jr.’s son, John William, was born in 1829. He wed Anna Amelia (“Annie”) Kissam, from another well-known Huntington family, in 1884.
A portrait of John Tilden, grandson of Israel Tilden Sr. and the third generation to farm the land.
John Tilden was among the “Green Lawn” farmers who signed this 1872 broadside.
This portrait shows the third and fourth generations of Tilden farmers: John William, with his wife Anna Kissam Tilden and their eldest son Charles and twin boys Leroy and Raymond. Roy would become the fourth generation upon taking over from his father. This carefully posed family portrait is from 1896!
John died in 1910 and his son John Leroy (or “Roy,” as he preferred to be called) took over the farm.
This picture from approx. 1910 shows Roy out with his team, visiting with neighbors.
The following year he married Daisy Angeline Gardiner. Daisy was the granddaughter of Alexander Gardiner, a successful Greenlawn farmer who helped establish pickles as a major area crop.
The wedding of Leroy Tilden to Daisy Gardiner (center) on September 20, 1911, which took place at the William Gardiner farm, Daisy’s childhood home. On their left are Charles Gardiner and his fiancee Ethel Burt; Florence James and Leroy’s brother Raymond are on the right. The twin girls in front are Ella and Elsie, Daisy’s little sisters.
Ray spent his entire life on the farm, and witnessed countless changes throughout his lifetime, from mules and wagons to trucks and tractors; the hard work remained the same.
This map from the 1917 Beers Atlas shows the farm on the north-west side of Greenlawn. (If you look closely you’ll see many other family farms preserved as our modern street names!)
J. Leroy Tilden with his mule team by the barn. (1920s)
Roy’s farm letterhead from the 1920s.
Roy’s son Herbert and daughter Marguerite, along with a young relative, showing off some of the potato crop in this 1930s image.
Another shot of Herb in a corn field in the late 1930s.
This 1930s photo shows a self-service wagon set up with farm produce outside Roy and Daisy’s home on Greenlawn Rd.
Roy Tilden on his kerosene-fueled steel wheel tractor sometime in the 1940s.
This image of Roy was taken sometime in the 1940s, as he takes a break while picking strawberries. Color film was a new development!
Roy was the first to plant Christmas trees, and sold them outside the family house and barn.
Winter snow coats a field of young Christmas tree seedlings in this 1940s image. The old homestead has a vintage car parked in front.
Roy and Daisy Tilden in front of their barn, 1947. The spruce trees were dug by their son Herbert and placed in apple boxes for replanting after Christmas. At that time live trees were more popular than cut ones.
Roy and Daisy’s son Herbert Smith Tilden would take over the farm from his father to become the fifth generation. Herb ran a popular farmstand; he grew strawberries for wholesale, retail, and one of the first pick-your-own operations on Long Island; and he raised five sons on the farm with his wife Mable: Jeffrey, Bruce, Lee, Donald, and John, the farm’s sixth generation.
Farm work was shared by the whole family. Herb’s wife Mable is shown here in the early 1950s with her niece Judy Potters, bringing in twelve quarts of fresh strawberries from the field.
This shot, taken in the fall of 1960 (but not developed until the following spring!) shows the farmstand set up in the old barn, as well as Herb’s farm truck.
This snapshot of the interior of the barn is undated but was likely taken in the 1960s. The collection of license plates dating back to 1915, along with many antiques and Uncle Everett’s arrowhead display, was a familiar sight to the farmstand’s many customers.
Herb’s son Jeff in the farmstand, 1963.
Bruce working at the strawberry stand in 1971.
Herb by the farmstand in 1974.
Herb, son John (in the truck cab), son Bruce, and camera-shy Barbara, selling leftover fall vegetables at the 110 Drive-In Flea Market, 1974.
Herb driving the tractor with his wife Mable and son Lee on the setter, planting tree seedlings, 1977.
Son Donald on farmstand duty, 1978.
Roy “Pa” Tilden at the farmstand in 1978, a year before his passing.
In 1976 Tilden Lane Farm was recognized as a National Bicentennial Farm in honor of 200 years of continuous family operation.
Herb, Mable, and thier sons at the installation of the farm’s National Bicentennial Farm Marker.
As nursery stock and Christmas trees became the farom’s primary crops, Herbert’s sons, grandchildren, and their families took a greater role in operating the Christmas tree farm.
Herb with his first granddaughter Abigail in 1981.
Herb plowing a field with the Farmall tractor in the early 1980s.
The extended Tilden clan at the farm in 1990.
The family in 2001 for Herb and Mabel’s 50th Wedding Anniversary.
In 2004 our brother and uncle Jeffrey passed after an extended illness. Along with many years of dedicated service to New York City schools as an educator, he always made time each year for “tree season,” and we remember him fondly.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Herb’s grandchildren – the seventh generation – began taking on greater responsibilities on the farm.
Herbert hoeing a field with his granddaughters Emily and Rebecca.
Herb supervising tree sales under the watchful eyes of grandchildren Andrew, Abigail and Emily.
The Farm Today
In 2013, we were very excited to welcome the first member of the farm’s eighth generation, Logan Michael!
Logan with his Mom (Herb’s granddaughter) Rebecca and Dad Mike, picking out his very first Christmas tree.
Logan with his proud Opa Bruce.
2014 brought us another happy event to gather the clan together: Emily’s wedding to Jon!
Gathering at Emily and Jon’s wedding!
We also said a sad farewell in 2014 to Herb, who passed at home at the age of 92 after a long and full life. He is greatly missed, but his sons, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are proud to continue the traditions passed down to us.
The crew is now headed up by Bruce and his brothers Donald, Lee, and John, as well as Bruce’s wife Jeanne, son Andrew, and daughters Abigail, Rebecca and her husband Mike, and Emily and her husband Jon, as well as family friends. Our littlest crewmember Logan is eagerly awaiting his cousin Nick and little brother Matthew to grow a little bigger and help him out with watering our littlest trees:
Logan watering freshly transplanted trees (with a little help from mom Rebecca), 2015.
l-r: Rebecca, Abigail, Logan, Andrew, Bruce and Mike, tired but happy after a long weekend planting 100+ new trees, Memorial Day weekend, 2015,
While planting, mowing, pruning, weeding, and irrigating go on throughout the year, Tilden Lane Farm is always eagerly looking forward to the upcoming Christmas season, when we welcome our friends and neighbors who come to select and cut their own Christmas trees.
As in past generations, the entire family helps with the variety of tasks that farm work requires.
Bruce’s wife Jeanne, handcrafting a Fraser fir wreath.
Andrew, Pete, Tim and Bruce, showing off a Fraser Fir.
Abigail, Emily, Rebecca and Andrew during the 2014 season.
We look forward to your visit, and hope that our family farm tradition will become a part of your family’s treasured Christmas memories as well.