312. The Jam Farm


Particularly in the Old Northwest Territory when new states joined the Union, roads such as they were, didn’t have a name and people’s home didn’t have an address, they simply lived in a place. Here people explained that they lived in Summit, short for Summit Township, and the smallest township jurisdiction in Mason County. Organized in 1859, no one seems to know the origin of its name yet according to lore it was called Summit based upon the tops of nearby high hills combined with the high aspirations held by settlers.

The so-called Jam Farm is principally named for Lois Gieleghem the Jam Lady along with her very helpful husband Jim. It goes without saying that she is passionate about making jams but we will delay that story for a few moments.

Grandfather Jacob Meisenheimer immigrated to this country from Germany when he was a young boy and moved to Mason County in the decade before the Civil War. As an adult he bought and cleared the land in what was then considered a wilderness. He married Isabel Woodward and together they had three children before she died in 1872. Three years later he married Louisa Peterson who had emigrated from Denmark. That marriage produced seven more children.

The Meisenheimers were a driving force in Summit. Jacob built a general store which included a postal station called Wesley. He was the moderator of the school district and also township treasurer.

Henry, Jacob’s and Louisa’s first born son, had six boys and all remained in Mason County except for a son who died very early in life. Henry and all of his children attended French School, the first being a log structure built in 1868.

There have been orchards on this farm for as long as anyone can remember. The Gielgehem’s own a 40-acre portion of the original farm and grow sweet and tart cherries and 15 varieties of apples. Jim plants four gardens with rhubarb being an important plant.

Given the nature of their primary business, this historic barn is a key venue in the experience. The annual Christmas craft show is held at the original Henry Meisenheimer homestead circa 1895. This century old barn has been altered through the years yet retains many vestiges of its historic framework. The basement was built with rocks gathered when they cleared the fields.

Lois creates 30 varieties of jams and marmalades primarily using fresh fruit grown on their farm and heirloom recipes, passed down through the family. Although she gets orders from far away Lois thinks of her business as a local one and it starts with local fruit.