About 50 bidders and a few onlookers joined the proceedings at the Milford Community Building. Tom Farms was the high bidder on 105 acres just south of Milford, laying on both sides of Old SR 15 and along Waubee Road. Steve Beer added to Tom’s $1,100,000 bid by taking a fourth 55-acre tract on the east side for $380,000. He said after the auction he would put the field to alfalfa.
Earl Wolferman purchased what would become his family’s land after he and Mabel were married in 1924. There they raised crops, pigs, cattle and dairy cows for more than 60 years. The couple also operated Wolferman’s Market downtown and a slaughterhouse on the west side.
They moved into a brick house on the east side of Old SR 15, near the property, where their sons Fritz and Donnie were born. It fell into disrepair and was torn down about 12 years ago. The family also built a white house on the west side of Main Street at the ditch (Mud Creek). Donnie and his wife Sue and their children, Darcy Hively, Deb Pickerell and Doug Wolferman, lived there for a time.
“I remember, Grandpa always called us the neighbor kids,” laughed Pickerell. “He’d always yell to grandma, ‘Mabel! The neighbor kids are here again,’” she said. At one point, the two families switched residences.
Donnie farmed the land full-time after high school and became involved in town activities. He spent several years on the town council. Earl was a charter member of the Milford Lions Club and his son joined, as well.
Donnie Wolferman was well known by Milford students for driving a bus for them to Wawasee High School for years. Good sweet corn was his calling card and the reason most year-round residents and lakers knew him. He passed away in 2008.
In a small wooded section of the largest plot, which family members refer to as “the 80,” Hively and Pickerell remember going hunting for morel mushrooms. Hively also had some great times, she said, that involved the use of old tubs from the slaughterhouse for recreational purposes.
“We’d plug the holes in the bottom and go floating down the creek in them. We thought that was great fun.”
Pickerell got a kick out of driving around the farm. She first got behind the wheel when she was a mere 10 years old, she said, because her Dad needed her to help pull out the tractors he would get stuck in the muck. By age 12, she and her brother were tooling around out on the property in the grocery store’s trucks.
Even though Tuesday’s sale was needed in order to provide health care for their mother, there was some emotion for Wolferman, Hively and Pickerell in letting the property go. “You know it’s the right thing to do, but that doesn’t make it at all easy,” Hively said.
What helps a little is a portion of the proceeds will be reserved in a charitable trust. In about 20 years, that trust will provide two scholarships for WHS FFA and music students, Pickerell said. The FFA designation is because of the family’s two generations of farmers, and music because Sue is a supporter of the music program.