Rymers farm turns 200 years old

Apr 2, 2024 | Featured, Around Ottawa County | 2 comments

The Elmore farm owned by Gretchen, left, and Tom Rymers has been recognized as an official Ohio Bicentennial Farm by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

BY SHERI TRUSTY

When Tom Rymers’ ancestors first visited the area now known as Elmore in 1823, they weren’t impressed. They nearly didn’t stay, but a chance conversation with a trapper convinced them of the land’s rich possibilities. Two hundred years later, the farm is still owned by the same family. Today, it is owned by Tom and his wife, Gretchen Rymers, and has been recognized as an official Ohio Bicentennial Farm by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Thomas’ great-great-great-grandfather, Ezekiel Rice; Ezekiel’s brother, Rueben Rice; and their brother-in-law, Bennett Havens, traveled to the area in 1823 looking for land on which to settle, but the land was part of the Great Black Swamp, an untamed wetland with little promise in their eyes.

The land had no permanent settlers, but only a few squatters who didn’t own land, including Bartholomew Rossman and Peter Fletcher, both of whom are related to Tom.

“They were told there was good land on the Portage River, at the rapids, which is Elmore,” Tom said. “They found the mouth of the Portage and saw a squatter’s cabin. They were not impressed.”

The trio made the decision to continue their search for a homestead, but on their last day in the area, they met a trapper who convinced them to settle there.

Tom Rymers grew up in this 1869 home on the Rymers Farm, which will turn 200 on April 12. He is the sixth generation to own the farm. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“He told them it was the best land in the area, and they needed to reconsider,” Tom said. “On their last day before leaving, they decided to give it one more chance.”

After leaving, they traveled to the land grant office in Delaware and purchased various parcels near the Portage River.

“Rossman and Fletcher also purchased property. Rossman purchased this farm in 1824. I have the original deed signed by President James Monroe on April 12, 1824,” Tom said.

Ezekiel purchased some of Rossman and Fletcher’s and later in 1824, including the land Tom’s farm is on, and it remained in the family for 200 years.

“I’m blood related all the way back to the first people in Elmore,” Tom said.

Tom Rymers grew up in this 1869 home on the Rymers Farm, which will turn 200 on April 12. He is the sixth generation to own the farm. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

The family continued to farm the land through the last two centuries. They grew bedding plants in greenhouses on the farm from the 1880s until the 1940s and owned a popular pansy business in the 1940s. Gretchen maintains a flower garden where the pansies once grew. Today, Tom and one of their four sons still farm the land.

The land is the site of unique local history. Many of Tom’s relatives, including Ezekiel Rice, are buried right outside his home in the Rymer Cemetery. A Native American trail passed through the farm, and Tom has uncovered a myriad of Native American artifacts. A fort was built on the property during the War of 1812.

“I believe it was right next to the cemetery,” Tom said. “It was an earthworks fort. There were no logs.”

A Native American trail ran along this spot on the Rymers Farm, and a trading post was built nearby by Tom Rymers’ ancestors. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

Tom’s ancestors built a trading post on the farmland. Although there are no visible signs of the post, there are remnants of it buried in the earth.

“When I used to plow here, I’d find shards of pottery,” he said. “I want to search the area this summer.”

Tom believes the farm stayed in the family because of the richness of the land and his family’s commitment to stay connected to it.

“It’s awfully good land,” Tom said. “This is the family heritage. It’s more than just dollars and cents at a land auction or in a bank account. You can point to things and say, ‘That’s where my ancestors worked. That’s where they made their living.’”

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2 Comments

  1. Scott Gresser

    Congratulations to the Rymers Family.

    Reply
  2. Laura Stiefel

    I’m so tickled to read this article. Through some family history research I’ve learned that Ezekiel and Ruben Rice we’re brothers to my fourth great grandmother, Susannah. A lot of the information I’ve gathered has been from finding historic writings from both of these men. What a great piece of family history to have.

    Reply

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