Looking south from the Bartlett House c.1900 where Ghent’s hay press complex once stood; current home of The Columbia Paper and a store on the left that burned in Ghent’s other great fire in 1923. postcard” Photo courtesy of April and Jon Meredith
IN THE LATTER HALF of the 19th century, trains carried hay from Ghent’s farms to the tens of thousands of horses in New York City. Ghent’s hay export business centered on the area in front of the Ghent VFW and across State Route 66 from the current Ghent Firehouse.
In 1892 five hay barns and a hay shed totaling 15,000 square feet stood between the two rail lines that converged in Ghent. Three of those barns had a horse driven hay press, the nexus of the farmer and railroad, Ghent and New York City.
Boys often had the pedestrian job of operating the hay press’s power source. Late in his life, Thomas Buckley, born 1878, recalled, “For many years there was a string of buildings right in the heart of Ghent. These were known as the hay sheds, where the farmers would sell their hay and it would be pressed into bales for shipment to New York. Vacations, I drove the horse round and round to press up the bales. My compensation was 25 cents per day.” Read more…