John’s grandparent’s purchased the farm in 1932 as an operating dairy farm. They operated the dairy farm until the early 1950’s, at which time all of the farm’s livestock was disbursed. The fields were then leased out to others. The farm has had continuous operation of one type or another since 1932 by the McLaughlin family. There is evidence of structures that predated the buildings shown in the adjacent pictures, but it has been hard to determine when farming actually started on this land. There is currently no grain production on the farm as all of the tilled acreage is used for pasture and/or hay production.
In addition to the dairy cows and related milking equipment, there was a dairy on the property known as Sharp’s Dairy. Sharpe’s produced milk and milk products, but the full extent of their product line is not known. Prior to John’s grandparent’s purchase of the farm, the dairy was moved about five miles away, where it apparently operated until the late 1950’s. It was during this time that many small, local dairies around the country began to consolidate and disappear. The building which housed the dairy was located where the McLaughlin’s garage is located today. When the garage was re-built in 2003 several bottles from other dairies were found, but unfortunately none from Sharp’s Dairy. The only Sharp’s Dairy milk bottle the McLaughlin’s have was given to them as a gift by Mr. Sharp (perhaps a son of the founder of the dairy). About 30 years ago he pulled into the farm and said he thought we should have it! He was in his 90’s and passed away shortly thereafter. The bottle and cardboard cap are treasured!
In the 1960’s John’s grandparents demolished several of the unused buildings, including the beautiful milk barn, due to the high cost of maintenance and insurance. See the historic pictures of the milk barn and related out buildings. The barn had stanchions for milking about 40 cows at a time. Because electricity did not come to this area until the late 1930’s or early 1940’s , the barn had a generator and battery bank to provide lighting and for keeping the milk cool. As the barn was electrified first, it provided electricity to the house, so when the farm was “hooked up to the grid”, it went through the barn! Eventually the system was changed so that power now flows from the house to the outbuildings. Excavation around the two remaining outbuildings is always interesting as we usually find “buried treasure” such as abandoned pipes, wires, and foundations!
In 1980 John and Cathie bought the farm and shortly thereafter reintroduced farm animals, including beef cattle, horses, sheep, chickens and turkeys. The cattle were introduced as part of a partnership between McLaughlin Farm and the JacksonArea Career Center, its neighbor immediately south of the farm. The partnership included farming some of the McLaughlin Farm acreage, and raising cattle. The partnership lasted for about 12 years. The McLaughlin’s introduced Highland cattle in 2001. Today Highland and Highland crossed cattle are the primary livestock at the farm.
Historically, John’s family had other ties to agriculture in the Jackson area. His paternal great-grandfather was a former American Civil War doctor and entrepreneur. After the war he settled in Jackson where he established a medical practice, a drug store (preceded by being a JR Watson distributor of health and other products), and in 1897 formed a company called McLaughlin Ward.
McLaughlin Ward was a feed mill and seed company which occupied at least a full city block in downtown Jackson adjacent to the railroad tracks (Jackson was known as a rail center). McLaughlin Ward had smaller facilities in 6-8 other communities in southern Michigan. None of those facilities exist today. The firm evolved into a company that made conveyor belts and related systems. It would seem that initially these systems were for agricultural purposes, but eventually their systems began to be utilized in manufacturing assembly lines, which is their business today. John’s grandfather apparently sold the family interest at some point, perhaps in the 1960’s. See the historic photos which ran in the Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper in 2014.