One of the most important area business ventures in the 19th century was the growing of garden seeds. Milford and North Milford (Orange since 1822) were a hotbed of novel seed development. Another 2014 Hall of Fame inductee, William Merwin, began his career in garden seeds before moving on to oysters. There were many others but the kings of local seed commerce were the Clark and Woodruff families. They each contributed to this industry both as rivals and partners, even within their own families.
Stiles Denison Woodruff, 1837-1906
Stiles D. Woodruff was a native of Orange born on November 27, 1837. He married Elizabeth M. Clark and raised four children. They were, Watson Stiles Woodruff (b. 4-8-1869); Frank C. Woodruff, who graduated Yale College '1888, before joining company with his father; Robert J., Yale 1896 and Yale law 1899, was well known lawyer; and Mary R., the only daughter, a graduate of Wellesley College. S.D. was a member of the Connecticut Legislature in 1880 meeting in the then new Capitol building. Stiles also served as Orange Town Clerk for twenty years and acted as clerk, treasurer and Deacon of the Orange Congregational Church. Preferring farming to other pursuits Father and sons held in excess of three hundred acres in Orange. Stiles Denison Woodruff passed away on April 10, 1906, at the age of sixty-seven years. His wife predeceased him, barely, on March 8, 1906, at the age 66.
Son Frank C. Woodruff Introduced, in 1890, the "Country Gentleman" a sweet corn variety that took Frank Woodruff fourteen years of selective breeding to develop. When it was released, it was immediately well received and persisted for many decades as one of the most popular white sweet corn varieties, for both home and market growers. The stalks average seven to eight feet tall. The ears reach about seven inches with irregular rows of white, sweet, shoe peg-shaped kernels. These Seeds are still available, and prized, today.
The company produced garden seed and became one of the largest dealers of garden seeds, selling both at wholesale and retail levels, in the east. Frank C. ran the New York office of the Company. They not only grew the standard varieties of garden vegetables, but have also done considerable experimenting and originated and introduced several varieties. These included 'Country Gentleman' sweet corn, 'Early Ford Hook' tomatoes and the 'Ensign Bagley' and 'Admiral Foote' potatoes.