By Betsy Reason
Janet Vawter is proud of her family heritage and her fourth-generation family farm.
The Noblesville resident and 1964 Sheridan High School graduate is one of three daughters of the late Harold Ringer and who are heirs to the Ringer Farms in Sheridan.
The Ringer family farm was originally acquired by Vawter’s great-grandfather, John Charles Ringer and wife Mary Catherine Ringer in 1894, then eventually passed on to children, then grandson, Harold Ringer, then to their three daughters.
Vawter and her two sisters, Nancy and Susan, who now share ownership of the Ringer Farms, this year celebrated the honor of receiving Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s Historic Homestead Farm Centennial Award, recognizing the family’s longstanding commitment to Indiana agriculture. The family in August received the prestigious blue centennial sign, which the family is still in the process of being installed, hopefully by February, Vawter said.
The Ringer Farms Inc. was among 73 family farms in Indiana honored this year during the Indiana State Fair with the Historic Homestead Award.
Vawter recently shared the history of her family farms.
In 1894, her great-grandparents, John C. Ringer and Mary Catherine Ringer, came from Millersville to Adams Township in Hamilton County. They arrived with their three children, Vawter’s future grandfather, William H. Ringer, and brother, Frank Ringer, and sister, Bessie Moore.
Vawter’s great-grandfather, John C. Ringer, in 1894 purchased the farm ground on both sides of the road along Indiana 38 near Ind. 47 (named Lafayette Road at that time) just outside of Sheridan.
The land had a Ringer homestead on it where livestock was raised and crops raised to feed the families and earn a living for each of the owners, Vawter said. During the early years, the land was farmed by horses, she said.
Mary Ringer died in 1937 a few months after her 59th wedding anniversary. Her husband, John Ringer, died in 1943, leaving the farms to their three children, William, Frank and Bessie. Each child received a farm from the estate that they owned along Ind. 38 consisting of several acres.
Vawter said, “It is noted in the Hamilton County history that John C. Ringer was the largest land owner of Adams Township upon his death.”
John and Catherine Ringer’s son, William Ringer and wife Orpha, had three sons, Wendell, Ralph and Harold. John Ringer’s siblings, Frank Ringer and Bessie Moore, had no children.
Upon the death of William, Frank and Bessie, the farms became the ownership of William’s three sons, Wendell, Ralph and Harold, who were all born in Hamilton County.
“There has been no one residing on the farm since Harold, Wendell and Ralph,” Vawter said.
Harold bought out his siblings, purchasing the real estate from Wendell and Ralph.
Harold Ringer and wife, Jean (Noble) Ringer had three daughters, Janet, Nancy and Susan, who are the current owners of the farms.
Before the death of Harold Ringer, who farmed the land during his ownership, he raised pigs, cattle and crops of soybeans, wheat and corn, Vawter said.
All of the above-mentioned Ringers were at one time residents of the farms originally owned by Vawter’s great-grandfather, John C. Ringer.
Vawter said the Ringer homestead where she grew up was destroyed in the Palm Sunday Tornado on April 11, 1965, a year after she graduated high school.
While there is still a long grass-covered lane that’s visible to passersby, there are no houses or buildings on any of the Ringer farm properties, which are now rented for raising crops.
Vawter is still a resident of Hamilton County and resides on the west side of Noblesville. “I am the only resident of Hamilton County for my entire 75 years, with the exception of one of Wendell’s sons, Jim,” she said. However, Jim Ringer is not a co-owner of the property because his father, Wendell Ringer, and uncle Ralph Ringer sold their part in the estate to Harold Ringer.
Nancy stayed in Indiana, presently in Brownstown. Susan lives in Cleveland. Janet and her late husband, Keith Vawter, who died in 2017 at age 69, and Nancy and her husband have been married for more than 50 years. Vawter has a son, Daniel, and daughter, Marsha, and two granddaughters, Brooklyn and Kayla. Marsha and her husband, Mike, and daughters live in Hamilton County.
Vawter is pleased to receive the award, which required an application with proof of ownership and transfer of heirship.
On a side note, Vawter shared that the father of John C. Ringer was Hezekiah and Mary Anne Ringer, who were owners of part of the land where the Indiana State Fairgrounds is now located and also a section of the farm known to many as the Stoughten Fletcher land. Hezekiah died in 1916 and Mary Anne, in 1925.
Vawter researched all of her historical information from abstracts, the Hamilton County Courthouse and Bessie Moore’s historical research.
“It is a pleasure to own the farm ground, and John C., William, Harold and his brothers would be very proud the farm has remained in the family for this length of time,” Vawter said. “We are hopeful to maintain the farms for our children.”
-Contact Betsy Reason at firstname.lastname@example.org.