By Paula Dunn
It’s Turkey Time!
Although Hamilton County has never been as big a producer of turkeys as it has been of cattle and hogs, there was about a 20-year period, from the 1930s to the 1950s, when thousands of turkeys were raised on local farms.
In fact, the Nov. 7, 1953, Noblesville Daily Ledger reported that between 25,000 and 30,000 turkeys were raised here that year. The article pointed out that, if all those turkeys had been consumed here as well, every person in the county could have had a turkey!
(I know it’s hard to imagine, but Hamilton County’s total population was around 28,000 then.)
The earliest large-scale commercial turkey farm — at least the earliest I could find — belonged to William E. Brobst, Sr. Located two miles south of Noblesville on what is now Allisonville Road, it was described as the county’s largest turkey farm in a 1934 Ledger article.
Brobst’s flock boasted some impressive pedigrees, but was actually considerably smaller than those found on the county’s later farms.
The G & A Turkey Farm raised over 10,000 turkeys in 1950. Established in 1939, this Hazel Dell farm was originally owned by Asa Auraden and Ellen Gould, but after Auraden’s death, it simply became the Gould Turkey Farm.
During the 1940s, Bert Sowers raised around 10,000 turkeys annually on his farm near Gray (146th Street and Gray Road.) One of his birds even made the cover of the Sunday Star Magazine in 1948!
Mabel Anderson, the “Dean of Noblesville Business Women,” founded the Mabel Anderson Hatchery in 1931. In 1948 she raised 1,250 turkeys on her farm, three miles south of Noblesville on Allisonville Road.
Harry Gilkey ran a grocery store for 45 years before retiring to raise turkeys on a farm on State Road 38, three miles east of Noblesville. In 1950, his flock numbered nearly one thousand.
In 1953, the Barricks farm, located southwest of Sheridan, raised somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 bronze and white turkeys. (The Ledger’s estimates varied widely.)
James Gatewood, founder of today’s Gatewood’s Vegetable Farm, started his business with a large chicken farm, but he also raised and sold turkeys for at least a couple of years during the 1950s.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. A 1948 Ledger article noted that other local people also raised turkeys, but in much smaller numbers.
When I tried to find out if anyone in the county was currently raising turkeys for the commercial market, the only business I ran across was Hoosier Heritage Farm, 15123 E. 146th Street.
They told me there’s been a high demand for their turkeys this year, but they do still have turkey for sale.
If you’re not a turkey fan, they also raise and sell beef, pork, chicken and eggs.
(By the way, they just celebrated the grand opening of their retail store last weekend after several years of only selling products online.)
How could we have a column on turkeys without a great stuffing recipe? This one comes from a relative of my cousin, the Dancing Librarian.
1 C. chopped celery
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 C. butter
1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp. sage
1 large egg, beaten
2/3 C. chicken broth
3 C. cubed day-old bread (or a package of seasoned bread crumbs)
1 C. oysters (more, if you like them)
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onions and celery in butter. Mix the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, add the onions and celery, and stir gently to combine. Pour into a greased one-quart baking dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake another 10 minutes.
Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears on Wednesdays in The Times. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org