The Legacy of Gordon Valley Farm


1923 Saline Observer Headline Photo Courtesy Saline City Library

“That which is worth doing, is worth doing well,” was the motto of one John Gordon of Gordon Valley Farm in Saline. The long-standing family farm has a rooted legacy and has gone through significant transformations in its 100 years in operation. Gordon Valley Farm was founded on November 31, 1881, by David and John Gordon, successors to their father David Gordon. John Gordon was born on April 25, 1846. His parents, David and Sally Gordon were natives of Scotland. Gordon senior purchased the farm in Saline, where in its heyday had up to 180 cows, and many other livestock raised for feed.

John Gordon dedicated his life to the family farm, and continued to raise animals, as well as work in town. Gordon was the Director of Trust at Citizens Bank in Saline, and a director for his local school district. On December 28, 1871, John married Julia Hendershet, and the two had four children together. On February 1, 1923, The Saline Observer had a front-page story titled “Fire Consumes Two Big Barns.” Around 11:00 p.m. on a Sunday, Gordon’s grandson Theodore Stimpson had parked his truck in one of the barns. At 2:00 a.m. a fire was discovered on the property and had quickly picked up momentum. By the time Gordon, Stimpson and neighbors were able to reach the fire, it had been too late to gain control. Sadly, most of what was in the barns was already compromised, including horses, cows and close to two hundred sheep. Also taken by the fire was 100 tons of hay, 1500 bushels of grain, tools, and supplies. According to the Observer, many people at the scene tried to assist Gordon with pails of water. Some even stood on roofs and were able to save one of the tool barns. The source of the fire was unknown. “In a few brief hours, buildings representing the work of a lifetime were reduced to ruin,” read the Saline Observer.

After the tragedy took place, it was said that Gordon’s quality of life gradually weakened. On March 22, 1923, just over a month after the fire, The Saline Observer covered the death of Gordon. Gordon died from Pneumonia, on March 17, 1923, the community believed that he couldn’t recover from the loss of his animals, “The thought of their sufferings weighed on his mind,” stated the article. Gordon was said to be a successful businessman, and was loved and respected by the community, “A good citizen and a kind neighbor.” It’s safe to say Gordon suffered enormous loss and loved the animals he cared for.

Though the family farm has seen tough times, it sustained the legacy and hard work by being passed down through generations. To this day, the farm is still run by a descendant, Phil Gordon. According to Phil, David and John were strong family names, and it can be difficult to track which he was directly linked through immediate family, “David was also my father’s name,” stated Gordon. As Gordon Valley Farm keeps moving, many aspects of the business have changed. “It’s still going, but we are not big enough to be going strong,” stated Gordon. The farm no longer has livestock, but instead focuses more on the agricultural side of life, producing corn, soy, and wheat for sale. “I sold my cows because I had to meet government regulations," said Gordon, “All the work we had to do to evaluate just got to be too much of a burden for record keeping.” Gordon shared with STN that farm life has changed significantly, and that farmers take up less than 20% of the current population.

Gordon has recently been maneuvering through the change of infrastructure relating to solar panels and land use, “The biggest problem we have is the desire from people to put solar panels on the farm, they take up thousands of acres of farmland to produce energy,” he stated. Some crop raisers believe that the use of solar panels may shade their vegetation and can be a threat to the economy. “Do we want energy for electric cars, or food for people to eat? We've lost sense of logic,” said Gordon. The biggest problem he sees looming on today's horizon is the pressure from the community and government towards renewable energy placement. The belief for Gordon, is that covering much needed farmland with modern energy production could be better served elsewhere. “There’s a lot of things happening in agriculture, and there's a lot of things we need to be doing to keep going in the right direction,” he stated. In 100 years, Gordon Valley Farm proves that dedication and hard work are powerful, and that these traits live on beyond our ancestors.

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