History of Pickwick Place

Before there were thoughts of growing fruits and vegetables at Pickwick, majestic horses graced the property. Even before the horses, there were dairy cows, prize-winning Jersey cattle to be exact. The cows ruminated on the then Chuck-Walt farm. Today, still evident is the Chuck-Walt name in the headers above the doors of two of the barns. However, it is the horses, not the cows, that give Pickwick its most notable history.

To understand the farm's history, one has to first understand a little family history. Charles Michael was a dairyman through and through. He produced top-producing cows that put his farm, and Bucyrus, on the map. Charles died in 1921, leaving his farm to his two sons, Charles (Chuck) and Walter (Walt.) The two operated Chuck-Walt Dairy after their father's passing. Walt also worked off the farm, holding top-management positions for industrial corporations. Through his travels, he developed a deep passion for horse racing. He began dabbling in Standardbred breeding, housing mares at other farms across the state. In the early 1950's, Walt gained full-ownership of the family farm, changing the name to Pickwick Farms. The dairy cattle were sold and Standardbreds soon filled the pastures.

Walt was soon head over hooves in the horse business. He found a great farm manager in Hal Jones. For nearly two decades, Hal managed Pickwick Farms. Hal produced great Standardbred sires, Gene Abbe among the most superior. One of Gene Abbe's offsprings, Stephan Smith, was a racing star. Because of Stephan Smith's success, Walt and Hal looked for ways to increase the stud's offspring. As a result, Hal successfully experimented with artificial insemination of mares, nearly unheard of at that time. Until that point, a typical stallion could breed 50-60 mares a season. With the use of artificial insemination, Gene Abbe was able to father more than 100 foals in one breeding season, the first male to do so.

In its prime, Pickwick Farms was known around the world in the horse-racing circuit. Over time, the horses left and the barns were basically abandoned. Now, we look to bring new life to the farm and to introduce our guests to a little piece of history, right here in Crawford County.