History & Timeline
Thomas Loring was the first settler of the land which eventually became known as Skyline Farm. He was the son of Reverend Nicolas Loring, the second minister to serve the early “Meeting House under the Ledge” on Yarmouth Foreside. He moved to the Walnut Hill area in the late 1700’s, where he cleared some of the land in lot #24, and established his homestead. Some of Thomas Loring's brothers also moved to the area, firmly establishing the Loring family in North Yarmouth. By 1801, we can trace the development of a working farm producing small grain crops and animal husbandry with which Thomas and his wife Phoebe supported their eleven children. Six of these children married and had children. Members of the Loring family settled close by. Their daily life and the evolution of both the Loring family and the community can be traced over the next 200 years in the intriguing town records and family papers available today in the North Yarmouth Town Hall less than a mile from the farm. Many families in town can trace their ancestry back to the Lorings, and the name itself is still represented locally.All around the farm of Thomas and his wife Phoebe one can see the old homes, which his relatives and neighbors established and which are still cherished today. In most cases the land has been divided into small lots with many modern houses now interspersed amongst the historic homes of the Loring family and their contemporaries. In contrast, roughly fifty-four of the original 83 acres of woodland and hay fields that was Thomas Loring’s original homestead are still intact. Over the years, various buildings were constructed at Skyline Farm. In the 1850’s and 1860's a Greek Revival style one-and-a-half story farmhouse typical of this area and period, with an attached ell and ample dairy barn, replaced the original early dwelling and its small detached barn.
In 1876 the last Loring to own the farm, Charles R. Loring, conveyed the house and farm to Abby A. Dolloff, the wife of Oscar Dolloff. At that time, the original line of the Maine Central railroad had recently been established which ran close by the farm, facilitating the transportation of dairy and forest products to markets in Portland and beyond. Several generations of Dolloffs used the premises primarily as a dairy farm. Descendants of the Dolloffs still live in the area, several of whom have supported the recent preservation efforts at Skyline Farm.
Abby Dolloff and Carl Semmes were married in the early 1940’s and then purchased the farm from various Dolloff heirs in 1944. In the late 1940's, the farm became known as “Skyline Farm”. Perhaps the name originated from the view of the farm as one drives up The Lane from the center of town. Alternatively, maybe the name was inspired by the view of Bradbury Mountain and surrounding landscape from the Northeastern end of the farm. The Semmes developed the farm as a riding school. It is fondly remembered by generations of children who learned to ride there while also learning a love of horses and country life. The indoor riding arena was completed around 1959 and is believed to be the oldest purpose built arena in the state still standing. There are newspaper photographs of its curved, laminated wood trusses being installed. The blacksmith’s shed was also added during this time to support the transition of the farm from a dairy operation to a riding school. Many lovely trails were built through the fields and woods both on Skyline Farm and in the surrounding area for riders to enjoy.
When H.K. "Ken" Sowles and his wife Margaret purchased the farm in 1970, he built three additions to the indoor arena to house his extensive carriage collection all under one roof. At one time the collection numbered close to 300 antique carriages and sleighs. Hundreds of local school children and other interested people visited the farm and its well-known carriage collection to hear Ken describe the important historical role of carriages and horse-drawn transportation. Ken shared his knowledge and love of carriages with fellow collectors and school groups alike.
After Ken Sowles' death in 1997, the farm was to be sold by the family and development of the property for house lots seemed inevitable. In the fall of 1999, a non-profit organization to save the farm was formed and by the summer of 2000, they were able to buy Skyline Farm, preserving it for future generations. Many individuals, the Town of North Yarmouth and several local foundations contributed to the purchase. The group was also able to secure a loan for a portion of the purchase price from one generous supporter and received a major gift from another. This allowed the group to complete the purchase of the entire farm. The Sowles family's flexibility throughout the process and their willingness to sell the farm below its appraised value also made it possible to keep Skyline Farm intact.
Today, a committed group of volunteers, friends and supporters work to ensure that Skyline Farm is a community resource by sponsoring education programs and activities for all ages. A conservation easement on the 46 acres of fields and woods at the farm is held by the Royal River Conservation Trust provides public access to the farm's open space and multi-use trails and Skyline Farm Carriage Museum exhibits horse-drawn era modes of transportation of New England.