Waterville Historical Society

your connection to the past

The Waterville Historical Society collects, preserves, provides access to, interprets and fosters an appreciation of history that has an impact on the Waterville, Ohio and surrounding area.

Farnsworth Fruit Farms

The Farnsworth Fruit Farm was established in 1877 when Mr. Watson Wales Farnsworth purchased ten acres of  land just west of Waterville, on the north side of Waterville – Neapolis Road, (later known as Farnsworth Road) and started his stock of small fruit trees. He incorporated as W.W. Farnsworth Company in 1911 and had expanded to well over 200 acres. It has also been known as Clover Leaf Fruit Farms, Farnsworth-Young Fruit Farm and later, when operated by the only son of W. W., it was known as the Frank Franksworth Fruit Farm. The orchard produced apples, peaches, pears, plums, cherries and currants. Early in the operation they would take loaded horse drawn wagons to Toledo and make the return trip the next day. In 1920 they had a special railcar to take fruit from the Waterville orchards to Toledo by the interurban line. Later, in 1923 they had a farm truck to take the fruit to market. The Farnsworth Orchards were also known for strawberries, potatoes, apple cider and apple butter.

From 1911 to 1938 W.W. Farnsworth operated the farm in partnership with son Frank and Frank’s brother-in-law W.E. Young. During the first few years of operation his younger brother Willie, later W.G. (Willard Grant) had a part in the operations, but in a few years started his own orchard across the street from W.W.  Mr. William Young’s chief responsibility was for marketing. He developed “The Farnsworth Family Fruit Basket.” It was their warranty that every apple, pear, peach or plum was sound, ripe, tasty and healthful, and that the fruit at the bottom of the basket would be as good as that on top. Each one of these baskets was attractively labeled and had gauze netting over the top which protected the items from fruit flies and other insects. It was probably big enough for a family of four and when it was empty they perhaps would bring it back to refill – a very good advertising gimmick.

During the cherry picking season as many as three hundred people would be employed. There were eighteen houses on the two farms used by the family and regular yearly help. During the war German prisoners were used, being brought in from Camp Perry. At one time Farnsworth Farms was one of the largest businesses in Waterville. Sadly, due to lower prices of produce, the great amount of spraying to control pests such as codling moth, and the orchard having passed maturity, production declined and brought an end to the Farnsworth Fruit Farms, last known as Frank Farnsworth Fruit Orchards.  In the summer of 1962 the remaining eighty acres of peach and cherry trees were uprooted and converted back into farm land or sold to developers for residential subdivision building lots.  In its heyday the orchard sent produce to markets as far away as Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburg, and south to Cincinnati and Columbus.

Much more information on the Farnsworth Orchards and the families that operated them can be found in the Wakeman Archival Research Center.

 

P.O. Box 263,  Waterville, OH  43566            whs43566@outlook.com

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