Just a half mile long, Layen Road runs east-west between Jersey Hill Road and Townline Road in the northwest corner of the Town of Danby. It got its name from a family who settled on this hilly site in the early years of the Great Depression and ran a dairy farm for more than four decades.
By Roy Hogben
This road was named for my family who lived on it from March of 1930 until 1975. I am not sure of the name of the road before then. It was a dirt, often rutted, road when I was a young boy in the 1940s.
The English-born Layen family included my grandmother, Hannah Jane Featherstone Layen (1880-1960), her husband Fred Layen (1876-1960), and her bachelor sons Bernard and Norman Hogben. Hannah had been married to my paternal grandfather, Robert Hogben, until his early death in England in 1913.
Fred Layen and Bernard Hogben, along with teenager Norman and my Grandma Hannah, had immigrated to Nanticoke, Pennsylvania by the late fall of 1928, the older men to work in coal mines. Their experience in ironstone mines in North Yorkshire, England was eagerly sought by the coal mining industry around the Scranton area. Fred was an experienced underground miner and Bernard a trained farrier, or blacksmith. My father, Henry (Harry) Hogben, his young wife Lucy, and newborn son Bernard planned to join them in 1930.
However, the Depression caused the mines in and around Nanticoke to close, putting the Layen-Hogbens out of work. Returning to England was not a viable option because unemployment in the mining industry there was also rampant.
While Fred and Bernard had no farming experience, they decided to pool their limited resources and buy a farm, where “at least they would not starve.” They ultimately selected the 117-acre farm in the town of Danby located on the road that is now named for Fred and Hannah.
After the Layens’ death in 1960, the farm was operated by Bernard and Norman under the name of Hogben Brothers. The two men milked a small herd of cows (20 to 22, as I recall) entirely by hand. They never installed milking machines. This meant rising by 4:00 a.m. to get the milking done and the cans of milk ready to send to the milk plant by 8:00 a.m. pickup. Then there would be evening milking. And sometime during the day crops had to be planted, harvesting done, buildings and equipment repaired, etc. (Forty years of 365 days per year rising at 4:00 a.m. is not a life that many would choose today.)
For several years, Norman drove his truck around neighboring farms to pick up their cans of milk and would take them to a milk plant in Wilseyville. I would often ride with him picking up the neighbors’ milk during the summer months when I had no school. He gave up the milk route when the Wilseyville plant closed and the milk had to be taken to the Crowley plant in Binghamton.
The Hogben brothers continued to operate the farm until Bernard’s death in 1973. Norman sold the property by 1976, married for the first time at age 62, and moved to Trumansburg and Florida.
The other part of the family, my parents Harry and Lucy Hogben, lived on the Layen Road farm for nearly 10 years before purchasing a farm on Crane Hill (now Gunderman Road). They continued to live in Danby until their deaths in 1978 and 1983, respectively. Their son, Bernard, still lives in Danby.
Roy Hogben has written two booklets covering the Hogben family in Kent, England from 1800 until 1873, when his Granddad Isaac (Ike) moved to Yorkshire. A second booklet covers the period that the Hogbens were miners in Yorkshire, from 1873 until leaving for America in 1930. The Great Ayton History group made mention of this second booklet (http://greatayton.wdfiles.com/local–files/family-histories/The-Hogben-Family.pdf), and it made its way into the Great Ayton Library. (“No doubt this is my 15 minutes of fame,” Roy notes.) He is currently working on a third booklet covering the Hogben/Layen’s arrival in America through the end of the 20th century.
Tompkins County Clerk’s Office deed records; 1866 Atlas of Tompkins County; England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index; England, Select Births & Christenings; 1911 England Census; Civil Registration Death Index; New York, Passenger Lists; 1930 US Census; US Social Security Index; US Find A Grave Index.