Don't miss, also on this site, The Story of our "Long Island Duckling"
Baby Ducks at Swift Stream Farm, Moriches - 1929
Swift Stream Farm Inc., was a partnership between Joseph Allen Titmus and Josiah Smith Robert. Joseph had worked at duck farms in East and Center Moriches. Josiah owned a garage in Center Moriches, first on the west corner of Lake Avenue and Main Street, then he had a brick garage built by Ernie Barber in 1914 on the west corner of Canal and Main Street. That property had been owned by his wife, Marie Bishop Robert. Josiah, already friends with Joe, decided that one way to make a better living was to go into raising ducks…a very profitable venture at that time…and he asked Joe to go into business with him. The duck farm was built on land which was owned by my grandfather John Robert and inherited by my father Josiah Robert. Josiah owned the controlling half (51%). (See note below)
The stream was already there, flowing east from under Mastic Road to Forge River. The property went from Forge River to Herkimer Street in Mastic, south to just before the railroad tracks. The buildings were built from lumber brought from Camp Upton when it was being dismantled. They built brooder houses and homes on the west end of the property. On the east side of Mastic Road, they built homes for some of the workers: Jimmy Quinichet, Tom Manson, Jimmy Plumber and Jake Husak (Carey's father). Also, down the road a little, near where Herkimer Street comes in and across from Charlie Monte's house, on that little triangle, was a house lived in by Gus Wilson, and then by Long Island Genealogy. The big house on Montauk Highway, where Joe Titmus and his wife lived, was also built from Camp Upton lumber, as were the store (with apartment over it) and the "little house." The little house was built for John Rose Sr. and his wife Lavisa (nee Howell). John was in charge of the incubators. When he and Joe Titmus had a run in about how to do something on the farm, John Rose left.
The big house on Montauk Highway, January 1944
where Joseph Allen Titmus and his wife Gertrude lived
Tom Manson, Jimmy Plumber and Jake Husak (Carey's father)
Original Home of Gus Wilson - 1119 Mastic Road
Latter belonging to his daughter Betty and husband Joseph MacGregor Titmus.
When John left,
Jake Husak moved
into the little house, and was put in charge of the
incubators, the brooder
houses (keeping them warm enough), as well as feeding the
He was very good at his job, and quickly made himself
indispensable for many
years. Unfortunately, when technology provided Joe and
Josiah a means
of installing incubators which would automatically turn the
eggs and keep
them at proper temperatures, Jake was faced with the
extinction of his job.
When Dad and Joe noticed that the ducklings from the new
not as large and healthy as the ones that were being done by
hand by Jake,
they thought at first the equipment was at fault.
Cliff Bowditch suggested
to my Dad that he secretly mark some of the ducklings from
the new incubators
by using a leather punch between their toes. They did
this, and found
that these were the ones that Jake was saying came from his
Jake had been switching the batches to make it look like the
were not functioning as well as the human touch. Needless to
Jake was asked to leave. After he and his family moved
out, we (John
and Doris Robert) lived in the little house from 1941 or
1942 to May of
George Miscenski September 1943
All the work of building the farm was done by hand. They had trucks, but no bulldozers or any heavy equipment. There was clearing the land, building the many buildings, feeding the ducks, mixing their own feed, (an incredible process in it's own right), breeding ducks, hatching the eggs, slaughtering the ducks, picking them, packing them for market in apple barrels layered with ice chips to be taken to the city to market, as well as processing the feathers (which was as lucrative as the ducks themselves.)
From the Notebook of Gus Wilson
The field up the hill to the south of the stream was used for planting vegetables. The field on Mastic Road across from the firehouse was used by a cement factory to dig sand. The farm used the sand to re-layer the "beaches" where the ducks were when the waste was scraped clean on a regular basis. Because the work was "24/7" Joe and Josiah had many of the workers living right on the farm. There were other workers hired from "Mastic Park" as well, but they didn't have the skills of those who lived on and were a part of the farm itself.
Early Forties on the farm
feeding Time - Gus Wilson
Winter on the farm
Ducks ready to be shipped to South America
Fire on the
farm - May
Dr Daniel Robert of New York City spent years in the Caribbean making money. Upon his return to the states in 1786. he heard about fantastic bargains on Long Island and went to Smith Point and bought 3000 acres William "tangier" Smith. At that time he met William's daughter, Mary. Having lost his wife to disease on the voyage to New York he married her. The land was that formerly owned by members of the Floyd family who fled to Nova Scotia when their Tory sympathies resulted in seizure of their property. Several generations later the old hospital at Mastic beach was sold and the Duck Farm property was all that was left. In the meantime a marriage to a daughter of Capt Smith (Bull Smiths) brought the second Smith to us in 1854 + or - (Gil Smiths not until 1909). Consequently my grandfather Josiah Smith Robert, in about 1918, had property and money (his father Died 1914 +or-). After realizing that his ford dealership in Center Moriches wasn't making much money, and having endured the tales of duck farming success by has neighbors as long as possible, he set about to find a partner who had what he lacked ....duck farming skill and experience. .Joe Titmus (his obituary and information can be found on this site) fit the bill and my grandfather also found a man who could mesh with his personality and his deafness (had a virus at 23 and was quite deaf). Joe Robert was an only child born in Mastic 2 yr business degree at Brooklin's Julliard business school. The material for the buildings came from Camp Upton (now where Brookhaven Lab is located) which after WWI failed to have a reason to continue. Joe Munsell was the contractor who supervised all construction. Joe Titmus would go to auctions at the farms in Nassau County which wire failing in the twenty's ,...to buy all things mechanical,,,tractors boilers (for the incubators) etc......