Autumn is officially here, and with it every apple-lover's favorite time of year. Our October exhibit celebrates the history of an orchard that operated north of Worthington for nearly 50 years: the Brown Fruit Farm.
The Brown Fruit Farm was one of Ohio's most innovative and profitable fruit farms in its day. Its entrance was located on state Route 23 north of Worthington, near what is now Highbluffs Boulevard. It was at Stop 27 on the Columbus, Marion and Delaware Railway, or CD&M, an interurban electric railroad that ran through Worthington to downtown Columbus from 1903 to 1933.
From around 1912 to 1958, the farm grew and sold apples and apple products such as juice, candy and apple butter, as well as cherries, plums and honey. As of 1925, the farm encompassed 100 acres planted with 4,000 fruit trees and was the largest fruit farm in central Ohio. It was renowned not only for the quality of its produce, but also for its innovative roadside marketing, including signs telling motorists how many miles they were from the farm.
The farm's original apple orchards were planted around 1901 by Frank Bower, on property once owned by the Pool family. Sally and Joseph Pool came to Sharon Township in 1812, and their family gravestones have been incorporated into a restored cemetery at Highbanks Metro Park. Bower sold the orchards to William C. Brown in 1909 who, a few years later, turned the property over to his son, Frame.
Over the next couple of decades, Frame grew the business with cutting-edge farming and marketing techniques. Frame, his wife, Marie, and daughter, Molly, lived in the old farmhouse on the property that had been built by the Pools. Frame and Marie both passed away in 1936, when Molly (later Molly Brown Caren Fisher) took over ownership of the property. She welcomed cooperation with The Ohio State University, and professors brought classes to study the orchard's growing and farming methods. OSU’s Agricultural Center two miles north of London, Ohio, is named after her.
The farm employed 35 to 40 migrant workers during the picking season, as well as several year-round staff. Murrin Cellar was farm manager from 1936 through its closing in 1958. His father came to work on the farm in 1913 when he was 14 years old and attending Worthington High School, and Murrin started working part time in 1915, moving to full time after his high school graduation. At age 19, Murrin supervised the picking of apples and cherries by crews of migrant labor. He lived on the property with his wife, Leona, and children Roger, Russell, Bernard (Brownie) and Myrna.
The photos and memorabilia of the Brown Fruit Farm offer a glimpse into the past at one of the area's most renowned and long-lived farms, and of the people and families who called it home. As Brownie Cellar, son of farm manager Murrin Cellar, wrote in his 1997 memoir, The Brown Fruit Farm: 100 Acres in Orchards: "I shall never forget the scent of apple blossoms from several thousand apple trees as I stepped from my school bus each spring afternoon. The blossoms created an intoxicating, pleasant aroma and, with the sound of the sprayer and tractor motors in the background, I knew this was home and I was glad to be here."