Rooted in Family: A Biography of Marie Pennings
Written by: Susan Wynn
Marie- The Early Years
Marie Pennings is Warwick born and raised. The eldest of children born to Jake and Johanna Pennings, Marie grew up learning the meaning of family, hard work, and community, values she has passed on to her own children. Marie’s father came to America from Holland in 1939. He came to this country on business, to sell tulip bulbs. But then war broke out, Hitler took control of Holland, and no one was allowed back into the country. Mr. Pennings was not allowed off the boat in Rotterdam. However, he did have his visa to enter the United States and documentation to sell tulip bulbs in Orange County, New York.
He decided to come to Warwick, where he at first stayed with friends. It was here that Jake met Johanna, at a Dutch Association of Hudson Valley function. Jake rented a farm for 15 years on Union Corners Road where the Town Park is now located.He worked hard and developed his own herd of around 45 calves. And it was to this home that newborn Marie was brought from St. Anthony’s Community Hospital.
As the oldest, Marie was expected to work hard and help her father in the barn, milking the cows. The second born sister was tasked with helping their mother with the younger children.
Marie adored working and playing on the farm. In lieu of a paycheck, she received a horse, which she dearly loved. She still recalls Saturdays, when she and six of her friends from town would race through the backroads of Warwick on their horses. Her mom would cook lots of food, friends would come over, they’d build forts outdoors, and they’d enjoy being young.
Marie graduated from St. John’s High School in Goshen with a scholarship. She lived and studied at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City and received her nursing degree. She then returned to Warwick and worked at St. Anthony’s Community Hospital, where she and all her siblings were born.
Jake Pennings, Farmer and Real Estate Investor
Jake Pennings became intrigued by the ability to buy land here. Back in Holland available land was either planted with tulips or was used for dairy farms. He bought four dairy farms here in Warwick. Eventually he was among the first, if not the first, subdivider in the Town of Warwick. One of the farms he bought dated back to Revolutionary times. A 400-acre plot was given to Robert Pelton and his brother. The two brothers shared the acreage and each built his own home in 1810. Eventually one of the houses, located on County Route 1, became home to the Sweetman Family. The other, Spring Brook Farm, was eventually acquired by the Pennings family. Most of the Pennings children wound up at Spring Brook Farm while the other farms were sold to real estate developers. Marie’s brothers have the farmland across the road which includes Pennings Farm Market, Orchards, Cidery and more.
Marie Pennings and Spring Brook Farm
Marie and her children own Spring Brook Farm, a 13.9 acre parcel with the original house and barns. Marie bought this after her dad decided to sell, 45 years ago. An older couple in their 90’s had been living there and the house was not in good shape. Marie and her former husband had to do a lot of work to restore the home. The house is original, including the plank floors that date back to 1810. Only the kitchen was added. When they first took over the house and farm, they had two children. Eventually they had three more and all five were raised at Spring Brook Farm.
Marie and her husband divorced and Marie stayed on the farm with the children. It was a wonderful place to raise them, and they had fun. Marie went back to nursing to pay the bills. As the kids got older, the beautiful old barn on the property was on Marie’s mind more and more. It had been built in 1810 and had the charm and sense of history that live through old structures. Although money was very tight, her hobby - and obsession - became restoring the barn. Beams had to be installed to keep it standing, and little by little the barn was given new life. When a friend told her that the Concord Hotel in the Catskills was being torn down and their chandeliers were being sold off, Marie jumped in her truck and headed out there, getting the last one. That chandelier, which once graced one of the most popular hotels in the region, now hangs proudly in the barn, adding its own touch of history and character to the structure.
Marie realized that when it came time for her daughters to marry, she wouldn’t be able to afford a traditional wedding. However, she knew she could offer something much more special… A ceremony held in the beautiful barn and the reception, in the fields. Two of her daughters did have their weddings at Spring Brook Farm. A caterer heard about the weddings and how lovely they had been and approached Marie about offering the farm as a venue. She agreed and a few weddings were held there. However, as this was a new concept, the town was unsure about what requirements there should be for such venues, so things were put on hold.
Spring Brook Farm, all about family and love
Every Sunday in the summer Marie’s kids and their children come for a picnic and barbeque. The 9 out of 11 grandchildren who live in the area play with their cousins, go swimming in the pool and enjoy the farm, just as their parents did. And when the weather gets too cold for summertime fun, they always ask, “Grandma, can’t we still have a barbeque even though it’s winter?”
Time now to share the beauty… and the joy
Now that the Town has come up with plans for events to be held on local farms and properties, it’s time to once again share the beauty and the joy that is Spring Brook Farm. There is something spectacular about watching a sunset at Spring Brook Farm. And there is something lovely about just walking the fields, around the pond that was built as a birthday gift to Marie, the swimming pool, and of course the house and barns. With the property surrounded by trees, you’re insulated from the outside world.