Century Farms

  16 JUNE 1951

Ryder Farm

The Jay W. Persons farm on Route 5, about a mile east of Barcelona at the Persons Road, has seen may types of farming over its 116-year history in the Persons family, and was the site of one of the first Concord grape vineyars in Chautauqua County.

Although it was operated as a dairy farm for many years, Mr. Persons converted it to tomatoes, grapes and poultry during World War II.  It now includes 63 acres.

The land was first purchased in 1834 form the Holland Land Company, by a Mr. Bradley.  He built a log cabin on the original lake road, about half way between the present Route 5 and Lake Erie.

In 1835, the 150-acre plot was sold to Paul Persons, a shoemaker who had come from Uxbridge, Mass., bringing his family of four sons and three daughters.

He sold it to one of his sons, Paul Persons, who in turn sold it to his brother Nathaniel.  "Nate" kept the farm only three years, but during that time, 1838-40, he built the present 16-room white brick house.  He then traded it to another brother, Orris Persons, grandfather of the present owner.

The house was built of brick made near Barcelona, on what is now the Douglas farm.  Shortly after tht house was constructed, Orris started a brickyard on the Persons farm, and brick for the Methodist Church at Westfield was made there.  Stone was also quarried at the farm.

Orris kept a large flock of sheep at the place, though later owners did not.  Mr. Persons points out that in those days, only meat from sheeps' hind quarters was used.  In 1883, Orris divided the farm among this three sons, Walther taking the section with the house on it.  Henry Persons, his brother received 45 acres on what is now the Makri farm, and Arthur Persons took a plot to the east of the house, now owned by Harold Persons, Seattle, Jay Persons' brother.  These brothers built houses on their sections of the farm.

Walter, Jay Persons' father, later bought out Arthur's share, and Arthur took over a neighboring farm.  Jay was 2 years old when the division took place.

Walter Persons was born in a house near the Ottaway cottage nearby.  He promoted the dairy business on the farm, and in addition kept hogs and harvested vineyard and vegetable crops.

Orris had started a two-acre vineyard of Isabella grapes, which he took to Brocton to be loaded into cattle cars and shipped out.  However, Walther, about 60 years ago established one of the earliest Concord vineyards, which reached a size of 30 to 40 acres.  It was taken out 10 years ago.

The present barn on the farm was built in 1907, originally as a dairy barn.  I now is used for poultry, with space for 900 hens, and 10,000 grape crates are stored there for one of the processing plants. 

Is is remembered that about 55 years ago, while a plot across the road was being plowed, a horse fell into an old well, apparently used at the first log cabin, and planked over.  Stones form the foundation of this house have been unearthed, and pieces of china and other household utensils are still found there.

Walter Persons planted three trees, two maples and an ash, in front of the house when he was only 10 years old.  Later, he moved a wooden wing on the house from the east side to the rear, where it is still in place, and raised it one story.  A wood shed was removed to the farm taken by Henry Persons, on the Persons Road, and was used as the original part of the barn.

Jay W. Persons, present owner of the farm, was born 70 years ago, one of a family of three boys and three girls.  He was married in 1906 to the former Loula Morse, Westfield.

They lived on the adjoining farm, operating the two places in partnership until 1926, when he bought the farm with the original house, and traded houses with his father, Walter Persons, died 1933, and Jay's brother, Harold, bought the place from the estate.

The farm, then a dairy, had about 20 head of Jerseys and Guernseys, and a milk route was operated in Westfield for about 10 years.  During the war, with two sons in the Army, Jay sold off the heard and converted to fruit and poultry exclusively.

Paul, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jay Persons, lived in Westfield and operates the farm in partnership with his farther.  He and the former June Skinner, Clymer, have a daughter.  His brother, Edward Persons, lived in Erie, and his sister, Mrs. Nicholas Crist, resides in Jamestown.

The farm now produces 250 tons of tomatoes and 35 tons of grapes a year.