This article, written by Nancy Given-McConnell for the Gouverneur Tribune
Press, appeared in the Wednesday, 31 March 1999 issue. It gives the readers
an insight into how a family can work together, enjoy, and learn from both
older and younger generations to continue a family tradition. She
used an article from The St. Lawrence County Farm and Home Bureau News,
March 1940 as a resource.
Sugaring With the Bullocks Through the Generations
On July 22, 1860 an Irish immigrant boy celebrated his sixth
birthday on a transatlantic ship while en route to the United States.
The youngster was accompanied by his entire family, who was in search
of a new location where a larger farm and a greater variety of farm
enterprises could be realized.
The family finally located on a farm near Edwards and the six
year old boy, whose name was James Bullock, began what turned out
to be a lifetime of farming in that location. One of his early
interests was the native sugar maple tree and its product.
Young Jimmy was destined to spend a long life closely associated
with his early interest.
For an article published in the St. Lawrence County Farm and
Home Bureau News, March 1940, Mr. Bullock looked back at 79 years
of continuous work with his maple sugar bush. He recalled
that the day his older brother returned from the Civil War, he was
busy boiling sap in a five-gallon iron kettle. During those
days as a small boy, he had his own favorite trees, which he tapped
James related how he used wooden spouts and wooden troughs to
collect the sap. Throughout those years a cash market was
hard to find, but he traded his syrup for broadcloth, which his
mother made into clothing for the family.
After James acquired his own farm, he increased his acreage of
sugar maple trees and taught his three sons, Fred, Glenn,
and Royce the methods of making high quality syrup. Mr. Bullock's
1940 interview stated that he and the boys hung over 11,000 buckets
each spring. At that time it was believed that their total
sale of maple syrup was the largest made by any family in New York
At the age of 85, in 1940,
James was still actively interested in the annual syrup making process.
He said that one of his greatest pleasures in the spring was watching
his grandsons, Arland ("Sonny"), age 6, and Leland, age 4, scatter
buckets and do other odd jobs around the sugar bush. Of course,
at that time, six year old Arland fancied himself a veteran like
his grandfather, as that was his third year assisting with the syrup
Bullocks March 1982 with the team of horses, "Chummy"
in the foreground and "Dandy" on her left, and a gathering
tub on a sleigh. At left is Kathryn Hurley Fletcher (a cousin),
Arland "Sonny" Bullock, Eleanor Bullock (sister), Leland
In 1940 Mr. Bullock said that even though he had spent more seasons
making maple syrup than any other man in the United States, he still
welcomed a chance to attend meetings where the subject was discussed.
In fact, he had attended one just prior to the interview at the
Fred Bullock farm, and related many interesting experiences of the
early days of the industry.
With the passing of the Bullock family patriarch, James Bullock,
Sr., in August 1945, the sugaring tradition in the original bush
was carried on by the next generation. Fred and his sons,
Sonny and Leland, tapped part of the bush and boiled in his sugar
shanty, while his brother, Royce, tapped the other part and boiled
in a separate shanty. Some said Royce's separation into his
own operation could have been partially attributed to the fact that
Royce and his wife, Rachel, were childless. Royce was not
child oriented, as was Fred, and he lacked the enthusiasm for, and
the patience with, the hoards of school kids who flocked to the
Bullock sugar bush each spring when the entire school was given
a half day off to visit sugaring operations.
family's sugar shanty deep in snow ca. 1990 - '92.
Since the school was then located in the village of Edwards and
transportation was not readily available, it was not an uncommon
sight to see most of the Edwards older students hiking toward Scotland
District, across the "Bullock Flat", on the way to Fred's shanty,
which seemed to be the main gathering point for "Sugar Day".
Fred was a good host and invited his guests to drink as much
fresh, warm syrup as they wanted. He also invited any of the
young people, so inclined, to grab a bucket and gather sap, but
it was thought there were more syrup drinkers than sap gatherers.
Fred hired some of the schoolboys each year to help with the gathering,
which was done by the horse and sled method, as opposed to the current
tractor and rubber tired wagon, or even the latest pipeline system.
Fred's last year of making
syrup was 1959, and upon his passing, sons, Sonny and Leland, having
mastered the art from Grandpa Bullock and their father, carried
on the tradition. Sonny and Leland's generation produced sons,
David, Arlee, and Ricky who learned the operation from their fathers.
Sonny, Leland and families now tap 2,300 trees, as opposed to
the 11,000 by Grandpa Bullock back in 1940. Of course, with
a great many of the maples very old and the devastation from the
January 1998 ice storm, there has been a considerable change in
the yield. Leland feels that some of the remaining trees are
not producing the normal yield due to broken limbs and the lack
of leaves. He figures the syrup business was set back 50 years
due to that devastation. The spring of 1998 saw production
way down because it was impossible to get through the downed trees
to tap and gather.
Then spring 1999 saw a fifth generation of Bullocks learning
the operation, even though some are still pre-schoolers. Davey
and Jesse, sons of David, and Dustin, son of Arlee, and Cameron,
son of daughter, Kathy and her husband, Bob Hance, appear to be
the future syrup makers of the clan in the old original bush.
Sonny's daughter, Tammy's three boys - Joey, Trevor, and Andrew,
plus Chrissy's boys, Sammy and Nick, from the Syracuse area, make
frequent visits during sugaring, grab a bucket and pitch right in.
While the boys living out of the immediate area will probably play
a lesser role in carrying on the tradition, it is certain the parents
will make sure they are involved.
families of Sonny and Leland
Bullock gathered in the sugar bush
in Spring 1999.
On any given day throughout sugaring season it is a common occurrence
to have adults of every generation gathered around in the shanty
tasting syrup, trying their hand at boiling sap, roasting hot dogs,
and boiling eggs in the hot sap. Weekends get really crowded!
At times the family get-togethers almost set records, with the gathering
wagon so full of youngsters that Leland has to set limits on the
number of passengers at one time.
Grandfather James, of the earlier generation, could never have
envisioned a generator supplying power to a TV, or CB radios in
operation, to say nothing of tractors pulling rubber-tired gathering
wagons and visitors roaring in on four wheelers and snowmobiles.
However, he would be pleased to note that both Sonny and Leland
enjoy explaining the syrup making process to the visitors not familiar
with the method of producing this delicious, and versatile, product
of the maple trees, just as their grandfather enjoyed it in his