By following two Red Hook families—the Teators and Losees—through the turn of the twentieth century and then two World Wars, we see significant technological and commercial advancements as well as a number of difficulties faced by apples growers in the Hudson Valley. Farming families in Red Hook recognized the unique benefits of their climate, soil, and landscape and began to plant more and more orchards on the “sloping lands and gentle hillsides having perfect air and water drainage” in the late nineteenth and especially the early twentieth century.  We see this shift especially with William S. Teator’s inheritance of his family’s farm in Upper Red Hook at the turn of the century and Harvey Losee’s decision to quit his medical practice and become a farmer after the first World War. The Teators and the Losees were meticulous record keepers, tracking their commercial businesses in apples and providing a window into their experiences of changes to agricultural practices in the early to mid-twentieth century.
The Teator Farm
In 1767, Henry Teator purchased 164 acres of land from Barent Van Benthuysen on Starbarrack Road in Upper Red Hook. This farm, according to his great-grandson, operated through the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as a “system of general or mixed agriculture.” Henry’s grandson, Andrew Teator, inherited the farm in 1856 and is noted in a history of Dutchess County as a “farmer and fruit grower, 182 acres.”  Andrew’s son, William S., described his father’s farm as the first in the succession of Teator owners to attempt “special things.” Andrew primarily grew grains, as did many of the farmers of northern Dutchess County at this time, and it appears that he did not inherit apple orchards for market. By 1858, however, he had planted a few trees and had his first sale of apples to New York, receiving $3.25 for two barrels. 
In 1892, Andrew’s wife, Ruth, auctioned some items from the farm to “close the estate” of the late Andrew Teator. On the block were two shares in creamery stock, four horses, seven cows, one heifer, two yearlings, a sow and pigs, as well as a sundry of other farm implements, livestock, and products, indicating the diversity of Andrew’s operations. It is in this year, a few weeks before the auction on February 27, 1892, that Andrew’s son, William S. Teator, purchased the farm from Ruth, “containing 192 acres, 2 roads, and 30 perches” as well as “11 acres of woods, 1 road, and 9 rods” for $4,500. William renamed it Meadow Brook Farm after his purchase but rebranded his product later in his career as Teator’s Blue Ribbon Apples. 
William S. Teator shifted the focus of his newly purchased farm, focusing primarily on apple growing with 110 acres cultivated in orchards and the remainder devoted to alfalfa and corn for the animals. During William’s time, Red Hook became “famed for its fine apples,” and due to his efforts to study the science of apple growing and advertisement of his apples as an exhibitor at “chief apples shows of the country,” the apples of northern Dutchess County were known worldwide. 
The Losee Farm
Harvey Losee came from a family of physicians. Both his father and brother, Edwin K. Losee, were doctors. Thus, when Harvey decided to purchase a “half farm” on Rockefeller Lane in Red Hook, his mother did not approve. His son, John, who would later inherit this farm, described his father as a “frustrated farmer.”  Initially, Harvey grew grains such as barley, oats, and rye as well as hay. Eventually, he set out orchards, but when he fell ill he entered into a five-year contract with Red Hook Cold Storage Company to operate the farm on shares.
John Losee inherited the farm when Harvey passed away in 1931, taking over all farm operations when the contract with Red Hook Cold Storage ended two years later. As John notes in his memoir, “The problems of fruit growing in the thirties were not easy. Money was very scarce in the depths of the depression… Improvisations were the order of the day. I built many of the things I could not afford to buy…” John kept the farm during the Great Depression and World War II, and despite all the difficulties posed economically as well as by forces of nature, he attempted to overcome as much as he could through careful record keeping and experimentation. By 1948, however, the challenges of running a commercial apple business were not sustainable, and he had to sell the farm. 
Mr. Teator always a student was as a boy an ardent naturalist, not only as a collector but going keenly after scientific knowledge of the things he was interested in. Also, having the scientific turn, he was as a farm boy an early reader of the Rural New Yorker, and this with the observation of his father's good methods he acquired the reasons for things and a taste for the agricultural life. 
William S. Teator was a jack of all trades. He not only cultivated apples on his farm, he experimented by grafting apples as both a form of art and a practice of science. His successful apple business earned prizes on a local and global scale, and the Blue Ribbon Farm under Teator's management influenced other farmers with whom he corresponded or who read about his findings in agricultural publications. Teator’s notes for lectures or publications reveal an agriculturalist who was concerned with the details of growing fruit trees, what he called “intensive orcharding.” 
Records show that William traveled (even prior to running the farm). He was one of the first and only to have a formal education in his family, and this could have been an influence that resulted in his deviation from traditional farming methods. He was as much a scientist as he was a farmer; he collected artifacts, experimented and shared his findings, and kept extensive records through notes and photographs.  In what appears to be a talk given to fellow orchardists, William explained that “the first or fundamental consideration in the care of an orchard is the treatment of the soil. According to his narrative describing the history of the farm, William had the soil tested, noting that it varied on the east and west portions of the property but was nonetheless conducive to apple growing in both. Through research, William found that a particularly “fine variety,” Jonathan, required “certain conditions of soil” which likely through the soil tests he knew was a feature of his land. 
Spraying became increasingly necessary and prevalent among orchardists in the early twentieth century. William notes that “when Bordeaux spraying was first recommended I gave it pretty careful trials,” but he soon found that it russeted the fruit and chose to not use this copper sulfate and lime slake mixture to fight against codling moths. As a result he would lose about 30% of his crop each year, sending these less quality apples to the cider mills. Additionally, the barrel pump that was used to administer the compound on the trees was inefficient and time-consuming to use. However, by 1910 William purchased a “power outfit” and sprayed the dormant trees beginning in the early spring with lime-sulphur. Soon after blossoming, arsenate of lead mixed with lime-sulphur (mixed one part to 36 or 38) was sprayed on the trees, preferably twice but often only once due to time. Laying manure and planting cover crops, mowed once for hay and then plowed under for the second mowing, was essential to the health of the soil around the trees. 
William gave talks and published his ideas and methods in apple growing. His detail-oriented personality comes through in the notes for these public contributions to the farming community as well as his willingness to experiment with new technologies that could improve his yield and his business. He writes,
To be successful in growing fine apples we must apply intensive management. We must have genuine enthusiasm and a love for doing good work. We must be prepared to give attention, rigid attention to every detail connected with the business and have the knack of getting things done. 
By legend, Harvey Losee was the doctor to the poor, often bartering for his services; whereas his older brother, Edward L. (married to William S. Teator’s daughter, Marion), apparently had the more lucrative business with middle class clients. Whether myth or fact, what we do know about Harvey’s life is that his early career as a doctor shifted around 1904 when he decided to become a farmer. His experience as a physician shaped the way he approached farming, seeing it from a scientific perspective. He called his land a “half-farm” on which he likely played the role of a “gentleman farmer,” since he continued his business as a physician and hired help for the farm’s operations. 
Harvey’s ledgers and scrapbooks provide insight into his life and approach to running the farm. He saved long newspaper clippings about practices in fruit growing, which include complaints about how there were too many varieties of fruit being grown and that dealers found fault with the great number of unknown or little known varieties. In general, nurserymen objected to cultivating too large an array of different fruits in significant quantities. Rather, what we are seeing in this collection of news articles he has collected is a shifting sensibility about farming that was moving toward smaller numbers of varieties grown in larger quantities. This reflects the increasingly commercialized agricultural world of the United States on the whole, and specifically points to the rise of commercial apple cultivation in the Hudson Valley in the early twentieth century.
One of the problems with apple farming in northern Dutchess County, Burt Coon noted in 1977, was that spraying had “made so many good apples that the public cannot or will not absorb them.” Coon believed that if no spraying had every been done, apple growers would have had a better chance at a clear profit.  Harvey Losee also noticed the repercussions of a glutted market in the early twentieth century, but identified the problem as overspecialization. A clipping pasted in his ledger (1904-1924) states,
In the long run it will be disastrous to the fair industry of the country to have too few sorts of the several fruits. […] People do not and never will agree as to which is the best apple […] there is a most amazing variety of opinions when it comes to choosing ‘the best’ of any fruit.
Harvey often thought about the shortcomings of the way fruit cultivation was approached and it becomes clear that his approach was scientific and mechanical,
It may be best for the individual to continue his plantings to a few varieties which he can grow especially well, but the industry as a whole needs a greater assortment of flavors, colors, sizes, varieties[…] it may be equally wise to plant in their places or graft them over to a new sorts that seem desirable for the market or […] supply. Unless someone plants new varieties, there will be little progress in fruit growing […] Progress will be greater in the next fifty years because we now know much more about plant-breeding than ever before.
This trend of approaching farming from a scientific standpoint continues with the family and other farmers who took to farming around this time. Just as W.S. Teator and Harvey, John Losee (Harvey’s son) approached farming from a technical viewpoint after he took over the “half-farm” following his father’s death in 1931.
John was expected by his family to pursue something more than farming. He went to Rutgers University for a science degree (possibly Physics). In 1929 he was hired at Bell Labs where he worked for a few months but was laid off soon after when the impact of the Great Depression settled in between fall 1929 and 1931. Soon after he tried to find work in the city but in that same year his father fell ill. John returned home to Red Hook, but Harvey passed away within only a few weeks. John’s younger brother Lawerence (Larry) was also home at this time, but he left the farm soon after John’s return.
John Losee’s ledgers indicate that he was meticulous about the way he observed the farm and approached the business. He was also very serious about his photography. He was an observational person and kept copious records of his life through his notes and photography (which he also tracked meticulously). His day-to-day activities are exhibited in a ledger (1937-1944). His entries are succinct and fact-based, such that he does not reveal too much about what he thinks or feels about his work, but the reader can see exactly what he does each and every day for eight years. His consistent and thorough record-keeping reflects his scientific nature. Like Harvey, he documented everything. His ledgers have accounts of the pests that were plaguing the farm, the weather, the temperature, his schedule, etc. Running the farm became difficult during the Depression and through the war. Perhaps to combat these difficulties, John maintained a scientific approach to running the farm to better predict circumstances and make more informed decisions.
Coming from an engineering background, John spread his scientific pursuits outside the farm. He fostered a relationship with the Cornell Cooperative Extension, providing feedback to their labs by testing chemicals, tree root stock, and other innovations in apple growing produced by the extension service. His meticulous nature in documenting these experiments may be found in diagrams of the dwarf root stock he planted in various parts of the farm as well as the sections of the orchards he sprayed with different chemicals.
He also built “doodlebugs,” automobiles that were repurposed as tractors during World War II and through the 1950s as a means of saving money. In the ways Harvey’s career as a doctor influenced his farming methods, John was influenced from an engineering perspective and his science background. John ended up selling the farm in 1948 and worked odd small jobs which included building radios from scratch, and becoming an inspector for De-laval’ separators (which were cream separators).
In his memoir, John Losee lamented the difficult times his “half farm” faced through the seventeen years he owned and ran it. Hail seemed to be Losee’s biggest threat, with the first storm he endured coming in June 1941. Although hail insurance was available, the premium for his orchard would have equaled the amount of damage caused by the hail on a farm of that scale. Nonetheless, Losee found it necessary to buy the insurance so that income taxes would allow a spread of loss should another storm hit in the future. In 1942, he decided to evaluate the trees in the orchards and cover only the blocks with the most fruit.
The 1942 hail storm didn't wait for the decision. It struck on May 23 when the little fruits were only the size of a little finger nail! We had hoped that such small apples cut with hail would fall off, allowing the undamaged ones to grow larger but not so. Apples bruised by hail would eventually rot and fall off but cut ones healed and kept on growing with horrible scars that rendered them unfit for anything but cider. After checking the damage (I found one tiny apple with 23 hail cuts on it, and much foliage was shredded), I gathered a pile of the hail stones, many of which were larger than a quarter, and headed for Red Hook to see if the Griffing farm had suffered as well. They were outside the hail path and so escaped. Ray and I took the hail stones to George Miller's and asked for a bottle of applejack and two glasses. Using the hail stones we made two highballs, the most expensive ones Miller's Tavern had ever seen. I figured they cost roughly $5000 apiece! 
In 1946, another hail storm hit the Losee farm, damaging the skin of some apples to the extent the fruits became unusable. Although Losee had hail insurance, the family only received $2,000 from the insurance company for a crop that was worth $6,000-$7,000.
The hail storm in 1946 was only one of the factors that eventually forced John Losee to sell the farm. He wrote a letter to his younger brother Larry Losee on March 21, 1948, describing the unfortunate situation he found himself in. Frequent frosts and early blossoms caused most farmers in the U.S. to have a bad harvest. Then in 1947 crops were hit hard by pests and disease. John had run his sprayer and duster continuously and miraculously only incurred an 8% loss of his crops compared to other farms nearby who lost 30 to 50 percent of their crops. But then the market of apples took a downturn. The prices of apples were drastically lower than they were in 1946. This sudden fluctuation in the market deeply worried John. He anticipated that all of his cost of production would increase in the upcoming year except the prices of insecticides (DDT) and farm labor. After incurring a loss for three consecutive years, the future of the farm relied solely on the quality of the upcoming harvest. After John’s experiences of the last three years he knew that the quality of the harvest was completely dependent on factors that were completely beyond his control. So, he felt that giving up his farm was the best course of action to avoid a financial disaster. In 1948, he sold it to his neighbor an appliance wholesaler, who had purchased the adjoining land for his son, a recent graduate in agriculture from Rutgers University. 
Andrew Teator sold his first barrel of apples in 1858, and by 1866 he had planted “a couple of good orchards” and was shipping to European markets. Local resident, Burt Coon, remembered in 1875 that there were a few commercial orchards in Red Hook and “the market was still not overcrowded; no spraying was done, and yet the fruit was generally quite fair. We didn’t have so many kinds of insects then.”  Still, Andrew’s farm like many others in the area was planted in a number of grain crops that could be cut for feeding his livestock or could be shipped from the docks at Barrytown or Tivoli. William describes the scene,
The near accessibility to the Hudson River with large freighting barges from nearly every landing making weekly or semi-weekly trips during the eighteen sixties and seventies gave occasion on ‘freighting days’ for making the highways leading riverward picturesque with load after load heaped high with bales of hay and straw, with boxes, barrels, and crates of every surplus production; literally wagon trains coming down from the hills at the east; some bringing their families along, the wives in sunbonnets, men in shirt sleeves…bent on enjoying themselves on the way, talking, shouting in the attempt to hold conversation from the foremost wagon to the back end of the train, making a great day of it, the hindmost man waiting in his turn, sometimes till long after dark to be relieved of his load, get his ‘receipt’ and travel homeward…
This was an era before commission men would scout the Hudson Valley for “futures” in apple sales, buying the apples on the trees. Rather, the system was that the barge captain would act as the merchant, selling the goods from his boat in New York and then returning to make the settlements with the farmers upstate.  Andrew kept a diary of his daily work on the farm in 1878. In it, he notes that he took apples to Barrytown for shipping, indicating that he was growing apples for wholesale.According to Andrew’s son, William, this was the “heyday of fertility and crop yields,” and despite the temptation fortunately, the Teator farm was “never robbed as was so often done to many of the places of the Hudson Valley by ‘sending the farm to New York’ an expression formerly often heard in this locality and too frequently having a deep foundation of truth in it.” 
William became interested in apple growing as a boy, helping his father to plant additional orchards in 1880 and eventually planting his own trees which he would continue to care for after purchasing the farm in 1892. He remembered some of the older orchards, some of the Newtown Pippin trees a century old, irregularly planted, “among which were some fine apples both seedlings and the grafted kinds in vogue 100 years ago.” By the early twentieth century, most of what William described as “adaptable soils” had been planted in orchards, so that grain production was much lessened. He describes the highways as similar in appearance to his father’s time, “again picturesque with immense loads of barrels going from the cooperages to the orchards to be filled with fruit and then on their way marketward with load after load of Baldwins, King, McIntosh, Spy, Greenings, and Jonathan…” 
From John Losee’s Ledger, we can see what types of apples he grew over the years, from 1937 to 1944. He listed that, in his “Permanent Orchard,” he had Wealthy, Fall Pippin, McIntosh Red, Rhode Island Greening, Kings, Baldwins, Delicious, Jonathon, Northern Spy, and Newtown Pippin, and under “Miscellaneous apples,” the use of which is unknown, he listed Gravenstein, Golden Delicious, Sweet Delicious, Winter Banana, Hubbardston, Seek-no-further, Hendrichs Sweet, Pound Sweet, Astrachan, Richards Graft, Liveland Raspberry, King David, Perfect, Opalescent, Reel Rome Beauty, Stayman Winesap, Wagener, Red Spy, and Sweet McIntosh. He was using McIntosh’s to make cider. In 1941, it is evident from the ledger that the Kings he was growing were struggling from a disease known as watercore. Also from his ledger is a Certificate of Membership at the New York State Testing Co-Operative Association at Geneva, New York, also known as the Geneva Experiment Station, from March 13th, 1923, that certifies that Harvey Losee is a member in good standing, “having paid his Fee of One Dollar.”
Like William S. Teator, John Losee also exhibited his apple crop. Renowned at the Dutchess County Fair as the “Apple King,” John placed in 22 categories in 1938 for his apples. Indeed, these pre-war years proved to be some of his best seasons, as he was also named the apple champion at the county fair in 1936 and 1937. In a scrapbook he kept of fair ephemera, we see photos of the exhibits with neatly arranged apples organized by their variety.
As noted above, the 1940s were a much more difficult time for John’s orchards. The only good apple year for him was in 1944. The following year was terrible for all Dutchess County growers, but this did not prohibit him from entering the county fair. As he described,
Unfortunately, 1944 was the only good apple year for a considerable time! 1945 was the season to spoil all the records. 95° temperatures in late March produced apple blossoms on earliest varieties before April 1. Many minor frosts during the month each killed some apple buds or small fruits. On May 11 we had four inches of snow! The snow was probably some help in keeping temperatures from deeper below freezing. In spite of this the state apple crop was less than 10% of average! The crop was so small that the Dutchess County Fair suspended the rule that exhibitors could use only their own fruit in competition. My cousin Elmore Fraleigh and I collaborated on an exhibit which celebrated the Centennial or the Fair l845-1945. Our exhibit which featured apple packing and marketing procedures in 1845 compared with 1945 won us a blue ribbon! 
 Narrative written by William S. Teator, c. 1910. From the personal collection of Sarah K. Hermans.
 James H. Smith, History of Duchess County New York with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers, 1683-1882 (Syracuse: D. Mason & Co., 1882), xxiv.
 William S. Teator, Story of the farm (handwritten manuscript), from the personal collection of Sarah K. Hermans.
 John Losee, Memoir, from the personal collection of Sarah K. Hermans.
 William S. Teator, Handwritten manuscript, from the personal collection of Sarah K. Hermans.
 John Losee, Memoir.
 William S. Teator, Story of the farm.
 William S. Teator, Notes from a talk (maybe given to fellow fruit growers), from the personal collection of Sarah K. Hermans.
 William S. Teator, Notes from a talk and Story of the farm.
 William S. Teator, Narrative written in c. 1910.
 William S. Teator, Notes from a talk.
 The life of Henry Losee as conveyed by his great-grand-daughter, Sarah Hermans, on January 23, 2018.
 Burton Barker Coon, Fifty Years Ago: Rural Life from 1875 (Red Hook-Tivoli Bicentennial Committee and Town of Milan, 1977), 11.
 John Losee, Memoir.
 Coon, Fifty Years Ago, 11.
 William S. Teator, Story of the farm.
 Coon, Fifty Years Ago, 11.
 William S. Teator, Story of the farm.
 William S. Teator, Narrative written in c. 1910.
 John Losee, Memoir.