History of the Farm

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 ancestor 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 Massachusetts himself in the 1630s aboard the ship Hercules; he began the story of the Tildens in America.

Early History

In the 1770s, Nathaniel’s great-great grandson Israel Tilden Sr. relocated south from Massachusetts to Long Island, 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.
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.
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.
John Tilden was among the “Green Lawn” farmers who signed this 1872 broadside. (Greenlawn was still new at this point – before the railroad had come through the year prior, the village had been known as Old Field. This led to confusion as there were two villages with that name on the same line, so Greenlawn was chosen by the railroad as the village’s new name.)
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!
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 Raymond and Leroy. Roy would become the fourth generation upon taking over from his father. This carefully posed family portrait is from 1896!

Twentieth Century

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 wiht his team, visiting with neighbors.
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.
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 always 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!)
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)
J. Leroy Tilden with his mule team by the barn. (1920s)
Roy's farm letterhead from the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.

early-christmas-trees-on-tilden-lane-1940s-1024x760
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 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.
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 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.
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.
Herb’s son Jeff in the farmstand, 1963.
Bruce working at the strawberry stand in 1971.
Bruce working at the strawberry stand in 1971.
Herb by the farmstand in 1974.
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, 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.
Herb driving the tractor with his wife Mable and son Lee on the setter, planting tree seedlings, 1977.
Son Donald on farmstand duty, 1978.
Son Donald on farmstand duty, 1978.
Roy "Pa" Tilden at the farmstand in 1978, a year before his passing.
Roy “Pa” Tilden at the farmstand in 1978, a year before his passing.

Beginning with the Bicentennial in 1976, Tilden Lane Farm was recognized as a bicentennial farm for our long history of continuous family operation, including this cover story in the Suffolk County Agricultural News.

In a photograph from the November 1976 issue of Suffolk County Agricultural News, Herbert is shown standing in the doorway of the barn.  On once side of the door is a large circular sign painted with various vegetables and fruits.  On the other is a large sign reading Tilden Lane Farm 1793.  Behind Herbert, te farmstand can been seen inside the barn.
Herbert, shown standing in the doorway of the barn in a photograph used for the cover of Suffolk County Agricultural News from 1976.
Scan of an article published in the Suffolk County Agricultural News in November 1976, detailing the Bicentennial heritage of the farm.
Article from Suffolk County Agricultural News, November 1976

When the National Bicentennial Farm program was instituted in 1988 to mark the bicentennial of the Constitution, Tilden Lane Farm was one of the first farms to be granted national recognition in honor of 200 years of continuous family operation. We still proudly display our National Bicentennial Farm sign at the farm’s entrance.


As nursery stock and Christmas trees became the farm’s primary crops, Herbert’s sons, grandchildren, and their families took a greater role in operating the Christmas tree farm.

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.

In a black and white image from the mid 1990s, Jeffrey faces the camera.  He is wearing a TLF hat and is bent over, in the middle of pulling a tree through a bailer to net it.
Jeffrey, hard at work.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Herb’s grandchildren – the seventh generation – began taking on greater responsibilities on the farm.


The Farm Today

In the last decade, the farm has gone through more changes as we bid farewell to Herbert, who passed peacefully at home on the farm in 2014 following an extended illness.   He is greatly missed, but his sons, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are proud to continue the traditions passed down to us.

We have been blessed to welcome new members to the family — both through marriage:

— and welcoming the eighth generation of the family, beginning with Logan!

Logan is now the first of a crew of six grandchildren:  his little brother Matthew and little sister Meghan, and their cousins Nicholas, James, and newest arrival Owen are all very busy serving as the farm’s branch managers and are outstanding in their field.  If you visit the farm during Christmas tree season, you will see the cousin crew helping out with holly harvesting,  pinecone selection, and candy cane inspection, and we couldn’t get it done without them.


Our extended family works throughout the year:  planting, pruning, mowing, irrigating, and maintaining the farm and trees.  We now also host beehives and are very excited to offer honey from our hives!  (Ask us during your visit and we’ll be happy to show you the hives – if it’s a warm day some bees might even be out for a flight.)

The beehives on a sunny autumn morning.  The sign in from of the bee yard reads "CAUTION.  No Trespassing.  Honeybee Yard.  Do not disturb the honeybees.  Their pollinating work ensures your food supply."
The beehives in 2021.

We work throughout the year, but Tilden Lane Farm always looks forward to the upcoming Christmas season most of all, when we welcome friends and neighbors who come to select and cut their own Christmas trees.  Our family is spread across the entire East Coast and Canada, but at tree season, we all come home to pitch in.

In 2020, Tilden Lane Farm was honored to participate in the Town of Huntington’s “Farming In Huntington” exhibit, mounted by Town Clerk Andrew Raia for Archives Month 2020.  We were able to offer several artifacts from the farm’s history to be included in the display presented at Town Hall, and Bruce represented the Farm at the opening of the exhibit, where he accepted this certificate recognizing Tilden Lane Farm’s contribution to the town.

Certificate presented to Tilden Lane Farm to recognize our contributions to Huntington Town Hall's Farming Exhibition and to the life of Huntington Town.

2021 was a busy year for the Tilden Family!  In the winter, Owen Christopher, the sixth member of the farm’s eighth generation, was born.  And in June, we were thrilled to witness Andrew’s wedding to Katie.  She has already been working at the farm for several Christmases and we are very excited to make it official!

Our crew today is headed up by Bruce with his wife Jeanne; son Andrew and his wife Katie, daughters Abigail and her wife Sanna, Rebecca and her husband Mike, and Emily and her husband Jon; grandchildren Logan, Matthew, Nicholas, James, Meghan, and Owen; and crewmembers Jimmy (Jeanne’s brother) and lifelong family friends Pete and Tim.

The crew poses together around the bailers at the close of the season in 2018.  Logan, Nicholas, and Matthew are sitting on top of the bailers, held by their grown-ups.  Behind them stand Abigail, Sanna, Jon, Emily, Mike, Rebecca, Katie, Andrew, Bruce, Jeanne, and Jimmy.
Our crew in 2018.

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.  See you at the farm!