Come visit one of Massachusetts’ most spectacular farms in the heart of Central Massachusetts. Our farm store, winery and orchard stand on a site filled with early American history. Founded in 1733, our farm was the first settlement in the South County area. In 1733, Obadiah McIntyre, of Salem Massachusetts, was given a land grant by King George of England for his services as town constable. The land grant was for 300 acres of wilderness land. He was elected to the first board of selectman when the frontier lands were organized into a district in 1755. Today, down town Charlton is full of his memory. In the common area are the homes of his sons and grandchildren. Samuel McIntyre’s (Obadiah’s oldest son) mansion, at the corner of Old Worcester Road and Main Street, is now the Southbridge Savings Bank.
Early in the 1920s through the early 1940s, this farm was used as a cattle stockyard. The old Morton Train Station was located just to the right of our driveway. As many as 50,000 head of cattle, brought in from the western United States, and headed for the eastern city markets were grazed on our fertile pastures.
Local legend tells a story about the last legal hanging in Massachusetts, in the fall of 1937, being held on our farm. Two desperados, ages 19 and 20, killed a local farmer for his money. The 19 year old, stole the farmer’s gold watch and was identified in a local tavern, when he pulled out the watch to check the time. Eager for justice and watching the clock closing on public hangings, the Charlton town’s people voted to hang the two in October of 1937, at the old stockyard across from Morton Station. People from all over Massachusetts and Northern Connecticut came and watched the last public hanging.
Is this tree still on our farm? Possibly! Look to your right as you travel up the driveway. Some of the maple trees along side the property at Old Worcester Road are over 100 years old.
As Central Massachusetts’ development pushed on, the new Route 20 highway was constructed, and the farm suffered in the name of progress. The highway split the farm in half, 140 acres on the south side and 160 acres on the north side of the highway. Today the north side of Route 20 is home to the Charlton Industrial Park and Charlton Landscape Supply Company. The South Farm became Charlton Orchards Farm.
In the spring of 1949, Nelson Wheeler planted the first apple trees, on the land that latter would be known as Charlton Orchards. Magnificent pin oaks were planted, in 1956, along each side of the road leading to the center of the orchards and the store. By 1960, peaches and blueberries were added to compliment the apple crop. Charlton Orchards opened for business that year, and quickly realized that pick-your-own would be an important part of their business. Mrs. Wheeler says, “ We never advertised. Nice people told nice people.”
In 1970, the Wheelers sold the orchard to Brookfield Orchards. The farm was under Brookfield’s ownership, until 1998. Sometime during the 1970s and 1980s portions of the farm were sold off to pay bills and allow for replanting and expansion money. Also during this time the main farm house was disassembled and reassembled at Sturbridge Village. In 1998, the farm was down to only 100 acres, 200 acres smaller than it was over 250 years ago. That was the year we purchased the farm.
Who are we? We are the Benjamins. Nathan and Patty Benjamin purchased the farm along with their son and daughter-in-law, Nate Jr. and his wife Cathy, and their children, Kaitlyn, Sarah, and Jillian, to continue the traditions of this farm. Today, the farm supplies the area with apples, peaches, pears, plums, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, pumpkins and vegetables. All is sold in the original farm stand the Wheelers built. Of cause it has had a few additions made to it. Pick-your-own, continues to be an important part of the orchard operation.
In 1998, Route 20 once again was under construction and the farm lost another 6 acres to progress and the widening of the highway. The Farm is now made up of 94 acres of pristine countryside. In 2013, we had 16 acres of apples, 2 acres of pears, 3 acres of peaches, .5 acres of nectarines, 3 acres of strawberries, 5 acres of blueberries, 1.5 acres of Raspberries and Blackberries and additional acres in Plums, Cherries, greenhouses, 4 acres of vegetables and 5 acres of pumpkins, 2 acres of wine grapes, acres of woodland, and not enough time in a day.
In 1999, we build a bakery and increase its size in 2002. We also added Cider Donuts to our bakery list in 2002. 2002 saw the opening of the winery, a dream that took 4 years to complete. We also changed the name of the farm, from Charlton Orchards to Charlton Orchards Farm, to better identify our diversification. We are now more than just an apple orchard. By March of 2005, we completed our Retail Greenhouse addition, with our Farm Store, just in time for this springs, bedding vegetable and plants.
In 2009, we added We'll Scoop It ice cream shop, serving only We Like It Ice Cream. Farm fresh ice cream made fresh each week and naturally flavored. We subsequently closed the ice cream store when Kait left for college.
Since owning this farm, we have experienced 2 Microburst (small tornados) 1 large tornado, and 5 major hurricanes, and in 2008 a massive ice storm. Each storm caused property and or crop damage. In 2011, we hit the trifecta of storms. We experienced a tornado in May, a hurricane in August, and a major Northeaster snow storm in October.
We struggled for some time with a name for our new winery. We finally decided to name the winery Obadiah McIntyre Farm Winery. The name is important to us for 2 reasons;
It reminds us that we are stewards of this land, this land having been a farm longer than our country has been a country.
We are a farm and it was important to us that we placed the word farm in our name to remind others as well as ourselves of our traditions and heritage.
2015 was bittersweet for us. After working so hard to build our wine business, we saw it completely destroyed in one night by a raging fire. Someone started a fire in our storage building, it quickly spread to the woods and worked it's was to our winery. We lost everything within a couple of hours. We lost all our wine, equipment and supplies. From the storage building, we lost most all of our apple boxes, peach baskets, irrigation supplies, packaging supplies, farm equipment and personal items.
For 2016, we have decided to downsize, reduce the number of farm markets we attend, and concentrate on farming our fruit.
The farm is open from June through November of each year for your PYO enjoyment, Change is never easy, but it is inevitable.
So come see us at Charlton Orchards Farm, and let our family meet your family.
Wednesday, Feb 5, 2020 at 1:00pm
Hadley Council on Aging
Friday, Feb 21, 2020 at 11:00am
YMCA Worcester - Central Branch
Wednesday, Mar 18, 2020 at 1:00pm
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