From 1823 to 1825, Benjamin Brubaker purchased five farms in the Black Fork Valley of the Mohican River, which at that time was known as Wayne County. Shortly after this purchase, Benjamin brought his family here from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. One of his sons, Peter Brubaker, settled on the land that is now known as Sugargrove Farm.
Peter purchased this farm from his father in 1828 and began clearing the land for farming. Peter named the property Sugargrove Farm. In 1844 he constructed a forebay bank barn that is still in use today and currently stands as one of the oldest structures in Ashland County. Today, the barn remains structurally unchanged from its original construction except for a portion of the foundation. Sometime in 1845, Peter constructed an eight-room Pennsylvania Dutch farm house which is still in use today. Peter sold a very small parcel of the farm to the Mennonite Church in 1872 that is described in historical documents as “a burying ground, and no other purpose.” This family cemetery is readily visible today.
Peter’s daughter, Susan, married Samuel Whisler, a Civil War veteran. Samuel and Susan became the third generation to farm this land beginning in 1878. Samuel became a local preacher well known for his honesty and integrity.
Samuel Albert Whisler, son to Susan and Samuel, married Edith Ohl and became the fourth generation to own the farm beginning in 1923. Albert, as he was known, served on the local school board and as director of the Dyke Elevator, a local grain co-op.
Albert and Edith’s daughter, Evelyn, married James Rafeld. They became the fifth generation to make their living from this farm beginning in 1939. Jim soon found it necessary to work off the farm and took a job at a local nursery. He later worked for the Ohio Department of Transportation from which he eventually retired. Evelyn was a school teacher before their marriage, but soon had full time responsibilities as homemaker and mother of seven children.
Blake, the third son of James and Evelyn, married Christine Jones in 1970. They became the sixth and current generation to farm this property. In 1976, Blake and Chris began planting evergreen seedlings to grow as Christmas trees. They established the business now known as Sugargrove Tree Farm in 1984 and purchased the farm in 1991. Finding the perfect tree at Sugargrove Tree Farm has become a favorite Christmas tradition for many families in the area.
Sugargrove Farm has been a part of Ashland County history since 1823 with six generations of continuous family ownership and operation. Sugargrove Tree Farm was developed to provide an opportunity for future generations of this family to continue to contribute to Ohio’s rich agricultural traditions.
Century Farm Recognition
Sugargrove Farm was recognized at the Ohio State Fair in August 2000 by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, The Ohio Historical Society, and Ohio’s Country Journal magazine as a Century Farm. Century Farms are those farms that have remained within the same family lineage for more than 100 years and have continued to be used for farming. We were pleased and honored to have been recognized for this special award.