Picture: From the mid fifties, from left to right, are Sonny King, Don Pepper, Bubby King, Al LaBarge (feed salesman), and Willie Staiger. Sonny King, Dorothy’s nephew, worked on the farm for almost all of its existence, until the early 70s.
Originally Published: 10/25/2013
Many of us have fond memories of going over to Pepper’s Turkey Farm at Thanksgiving time to buy our fresh turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. What a beautiful farm Donald and Dorothy Pepper owned. Don Pepper grew up on his family farm at the corner of Waller Road and Rt. 9. Don loved farming, and in the mid 40s, Don and Dorothy bought the farm across the road, the brick house that was originally known as the Brill house. They immediately focused on raising turkeys on a full-time basis, and they developed their farm into a thriving operation. I grew up with their son, John, and have lots of wonderful memories spending time on the farm, watching the turkeys, hiking the mountain out in back and enjoying the beautiful country estate that John’s family had built. There was always a lot going on at Pepper’s Turkey Farm. Some of the pictures below help to provide a perspective as to how significant this farm was.
On the right Don is pulling a fresh turkey out of the cooler. They were all lined up by size and ready for purchasing. Turkeys were sold all over the country, but many were also sold locally. For example, one of the current restaurants in town, Winslow’s, got its start in 1960 when the new owners, Tessie and Harold Clute, built their restaurant business in part by buying and cooking Pepper’s turkeys for its customers.
When we purchased our Thanksgiving turkey at Pepper’s, sometimes we received some special turkey napkins that were too nice to use!
These pictures help to show the immensity of this farming operation. Notice the blacktop service area with two center gardens. As I recall, at the time, the Peppers were the only ones that I knew who had a black top driveway! :-) The six brooder houses are shown near the back of the property toward the mountain. Poults (young turkeys) were purchased when they were one-day old and placed in the brooder houses. Now the location of the Home of the Good Shepherd and Adirondack Community College in the early 70s there were 11 pole barns across the road from the house. Each pole barn would hold 3,000 tom turkeys or 5,000 hens. This farming operation housed between 50,000 and 60,000 turkeys. For the motorists on Rt. 9, it was a very beautiful sight.
Sadly, Don Pepper passed away unexpectedly in 1967. Johnnie had just graduated from HVCC and was in the process of pursuing a teaching career. Donnie was pursuing a professional baseball career and was on a promising path to success as a professional athlete. Both took on responsibilities of the family farm along with Sonny King and Dorothy. Through a team effort, they kept the farm thriving until 1972.
Appreciation is extended to John Pepper who provided me with these wonderful pictures and lots of information that I could share. Johnnie, thanks for sharing these special memories!
This is the eighth of several columns by Dick Lasselle about various aspects of life in Wilton. Dick grew up on Putnam Lane in Wilton, just off Jones road, and now lives on property that was part of the Putnam farm originally owned by his great-grandparents. Dick’s sister, Linda Baker, and his mom, Doris Lasselle, are contributing toward the development of these articles.