Old Company Logo Tells Story of a
Troy Business and a Family
BY Judy Deeter
TROY - A few months ago, The Troy Historical Society received a gift of old Troy memorabilia—post cards, ink blotters and political advertisements. Included in the materials were two business envelopes with a printed logo of the Fairmount Nurseries, a Troy company that is believed to have ceased operations the first half of the 20th century.
The envelopes pictured above—one from 1883 and one from 1885—are perhaps the most interesting items in the collection. Unlike most company logos today that contain just one or two words, the Fairmount Nurseries logo contains information about both the company and the owner of the business.
According to the logo, Fairmount Nurseries was established in 1838 in Pennsylvania and the owner in 1883 was George Peters and son. While the business was owned by George Peters and his son in Ohio, it was George’s father, John Peters, who started the nursery in Pennsylvania when George was about 11 years old. It was founded at Bendersville, Adams County, Pennsylvania, which is located on the northern edge of the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg. In fact, Troy historian Thomas Wheeler wrote in his book TROY THE NINETEENTH CENTURY that George Peters was a witness to the 1863 battle at Gettysburg.
In 1869, George, his wife Hannah (Smith), and their eight children—six girls and two boys—moved to New Carlisle, Ohio. There, George started in the nursery business with the help of his 20-year-old son, Wilson Peters. In 1875, they formed a partnership using the name George Peters & Son and purchased a 120-acre farm just south of Troy. They planted the entire farm in nursery stock. The Peters family and their New Carlisle nursery business relocated to Troy in March 1877.
Thomas Wheeler said in his book that George Peters “raised his trees on the high ground southwest of Troy.” Wheeler listed trees and berry products grown and sold at the nursery as: “…apple, peach, pear, quince, cherry and plum, and evergreen trees. The nursery also raised blackberry, raspberry, currant and gooseberry bushes and strawberry plants.” The Peters’ land was south of Troy along what is now Peters Road.
In the 19th century, many family homes had fruit trees in their yard or a small orchard on their property. Back then, much of the food people ate was grown on their own land. Thomas Harbaugh wrote in his 1909 book CENTENNIAL HISTORY TROY, PIQUA AND MIAMI COUNTY, OHIO WITH REPRESENTATIVE CITIZENS: "One of the first things that commanded the attention of the pioneer farmer after he had erected his cabin and broken ground was the planting of an orchard. It was soon discovered that the apple would thrive in Miami County. Some of the immigrants had brought the infant trees with them and these were set out where it was thought they would thrive best. It was also found that peaches, pears, cherries and plums produced well in our climate and these were introduced to increase the fruit supply."
The Fairmount Nurseries Company logo changed between 1883 and 1885. The 1883 logo says the proprietors were George Peters and Son; the 1885 logo reads George Peters and Company. The change in the wording came with the death of George Peters in 1883. Wilson Peters then became the manager of the company in accordance with his father’s will.
Around 1891, Wilson and his younger brother, Norris, purchased both the business and the land (about 250 acres) from family members. Wilson bought a two-third interest; Norris a one-third interest.
George Peters’ nursery was flourishing at the time of his death. Thomas Wheeler wrote in the book TROY THE NINETEENTH CENTURY: "…in 1883 Peters had 150 salesmen out selling his fruit trees. Many of these tree salesmen were young, unmarried men who lived at the Morris House or Hatfield House (in Troy) when they were not traveling. Almost all of the men who later became prominent in business or social life of Troy made one or more ‘tree trips’….Besides the tree salesmen the nurseries hired temporary labor during the spring and in the fall. These temporary employees (pictured above) numbered more than the salesmen. Many, many carloads of trees were shipped from Troy to points all over the eastern half of the United States. As Rochester, New York, was the center of the fruit tree trade in the East, Miami County was the center in the Middle West."
Wheeler also said that the Fairmount Nursery was “the largest and most prosperous of all Troy’s nurseries.” NOTE: At some point between 1908 and 1914, the name Fairmount Nurseries was changed to Fairmount Nursery.
Wheeler described the prosperity of the nursery in the 1890s under the ownership of Wilson and Norris Peters, “The basement of one nursery building could hold 60 carloads of trees of planting size. Several times in the course of a year the basement would be filled and emptied again as the Big Four Railroad was kept busy taking away full cars and spotting empty ones.”
The book GENEALOGICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD OF MIAMI COUNTY OHIO (1900) says “…eight years after the death of George Peters…the business has more than doubled until now they have six hundred and fifty acres and are the largest nursery stock growers in Ohio.”
Fairmount Nurseries sold both directly to customers and through middlemen. They also had partnerships with other nurseries. The company letterhead used in 1885 shows they had nurseries in Le Mars, Iowa and Topeka, Kansas. An article in the 1899 edition of the publication NATIONAL NURSERYMAN says that in Topeka, Kansas they were in partnership with a man named J.H. Skinner. The Topeka nursery was known as Capital Nurseries.
While Norris Peters seems to have led a relatively quiet life, Wilson Peters became quite a prominent man in Troy. He was involved in many things along with the nursery business. He was president of the Troy Wagon Works Company, a large stockholder and director of the Troy National Bank, a director of the Troy Land Improvement Company, an investor in an electric light plant at Middletown, Ohio and gave a large donation to help re-build the Methodist Church in Troy after a devastating fire. In 1899, he was president of the American Nurseryman Association. At the time of his death in 1904, over 1000 people came to the Troy Methodist Church to view his body.
Wilson Peters’ son Charles, was also part of the operation of the business for a few years. He, however, is remembered for being an auditor. He was an auditor for both for Miami County and the City of Troy.
Change came to the Peters’ nursery in the early 1900s following Wilson Peters’ death. Norris and Charles Peters operated the business from 1904 to 1908. Norris Peters was then the company president and general manager; Charles Peters was the secretary and treasurer. George Peters’ widow, Hannah, passed away in April 1907. Norris Peters retired from the business in 1908. Around the time of his retirement, some of the Peters property was sold T.J. Dinsmore, a nurseryman from Tippecanoe City (Tipp City), Ohio.
The publication NATIONAL NURSERYMAN, Vol. 16 (1908) says: “The Farmers Nursery Company (owned by T.J. Dinsmore) of Tippecanoe City, Ohio purchased the packing grounds, farm, and nursery stock of The George Peters Nursery Company, Troy, Ohio on September 1st. Their office and packing sheds were removed to Troy, Ohio, which will be their address and principle place of business.” The purchase included a house built by Wilson Peters in the 1880s. Dinsmore also owned the Progress Nursery Company in Troy.
In the early 1920s, part of the Troy Country Club golf course was built on what had been the Peters’ nursery land.
Peters Avenue in Troy and Peters Road south of Troy are named for the George Peters family. Some sources say that the roads were named specifically for George Peters.
It has not been confirmed when the Fairmount Nursery went out of business or the name of the last owner. A picture of a 1920s company catalog has been found on the internet.
A summary of the popularity and loss of local fruit orchards is in the book HISTORY OF MIAMI COUNTY OHIO (1982) says: "Orchards are a thing of the past, excepting those of the commercial grower...In 1870 to 1879 there was an average of 3,806 acres in orchards. These were the peak years. Fruit diseases began to appear in the 1890’s and the family orchard was on its way out. The 1950 census showed only 550 acres of orchards in this county, all owned and operated by commercial growers who are equipped with spraying machinery to control insects and diseases.
The Fairmount Nurseries—once Ohio’s largest stock nursery—is now part of Troy history. A reminder of its existence is a logo on a couple of old buiness envelopes.
For more information regarding this story, contact The Troy Historical Society at (937) 339-5900 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images courtesy of The Troy Historical Society