Nephew John McCarthy works in the hayfields at the Jim Eddy Homestead Sunday in Gorham. Robert Lowell/American Journal

GORHAM — The Gorham Historical Society has agreed to fork over ownership of the Jim Eddy Homestead where haying, a centuries-old tradition at the farm, got under way this week.

An historical society board that has overseen agricultural preservation and community recreation at the historic farm in White Rock is separating from the historical society and will be the new owner.

Eddy, who died at 93 in 2006, bestowed his 87-acre farm on Barstow Road to the Historical Society while granting his nephew, John McCarthy, life occupancy. Since then, a historical society homestead board has overseen its operation.

The John McCarthy barn at the Jim Eddy Homestead in Gorham. Robert Lowell/American Journal

In a move initiated by the homestead board, the historical society has agreed to transfer the property ownership to a new, unnamed entity. The current homestead board would constitute the nucleus of a group. The deal hinges on the new organization acquiring non-profit status.

Historical Society President Suzanne Phillips said 25 historical society members, including some who joined just before its June meeting, voted unanimously in person to transfer the property. The society has 110 paid members.

“The membership of the existing Jim Eddy board under the historical society has maintained the farm and taken great care of John McCarthy, and I hope to see that continue,” Phillips said in an email this week to the American Journal.

Transfer of the homestead and its assets is going through a legal process. Phillips wants a final agreement to include a clause that the homestead would revert to the historical society if the new organization being established eventually dissolves.

Without that stipulation, Phillips would balk at signing an agreement, she said.

A few years ago, the historical society teetered on the brink of folding. McCarthy, 77, said a question arose then about the future of the homestead if the society disbanded. McCarthy said Tuesday he is OK  with the shift of the homestead out from under the historical society umbrella.

Peter Dean mows hay at the Jim Eddy Homestead on Sunday in Gorham. Robert Lowell/American Journal

The farm dates back to 1759. Eddy acquired the farm in 1950 and McCarthy began helping him operate it in 1962.

Eddy raised cattle, free-range poultry and garden produce. David McCullough, president of the homestead board and historical society vice president of special programs, recalled seeing Eddy on his knees weeding his garden. “One thing was very clear, Jim Eddy loved his farm,” McCullough said.

McCullough said Eddy named the board’s first members “We had a command from the officer,” McCullough said about instruction from Eddy.

Eddy willed farmhouse furnishings, tools and farm equipment to the historical society.

His four tractors are still at the farm. McCarthy was in the driver’s seat of his uncle’s Farmall Super C tractor on Sunday. Towing a hay tedder, McCarthy was fluffing up newly mown hay to speed the curing process.

Peter Dean, a homestead neighbor and member of the historical society’s homestead board, was mowing with a Farmall diesel tractor the homestead purchased.

Sale of hay, McCullough said, is the homestead’s primary source of funding. The crop generates an average of $4,000 to $7,000 annually. “We’re tight on funds,” he said.

McCarthy previously donated $62,000 to the historical society to build a new barn, replacing the old one flattened in a storm. McCullough said McCarthy contributes to maintain the house and pays property taxes on it.

A resolution presented to historical society members indicates that establishing an independent, non-profit entity could bolster donations. Funds are plowed back into the farm, McCarthy said.

Dean said Boy Scouts have cleared an area on the homestead for Scout camping and the area is available to the public for picnics. Dean also said a walking trail is public.

In his will, Eddy banned all-terrain vehicles, three- and four-wheelers, and motor bikes to prevent field damage. McCarthy said permitted public uses at the homestead include fishing in a trout brook, hunting and snowmobiling.

The farm has a few wooded acres and McCarthy sees an educational opportunity where Scouts might learn forestry management.

McCarthy has a history of the homestead and said John and Annah Murch owned the homestead 260 years ago and are buried somewhere on the farm. McCarthy said a search for their graves will be launched in September.

Eddy’s ashes were spread on the farm.