Watts Logan Spring Farm in Bellwood has been part of the local community for 100 years. Gilbert Watts bought an option on the farm in 1920 and began improvements to the farmhouse, establishing a home for he and his wife, Mary. From humble beginnings, selling fruits and vegetables from a roadside wagon, the farm grew over the years and adapted to fit the needs of the surrounding community.
Today, 100 years later, the farm is still a busy operation, selling Christmas trees and greenery and specializing in cow/calf production of registered Angus cattle. Throughout the century, Watts Logan Spring Farm has been in continuous operation in the same family — now under the direction of the Watts’ daughter, Betty Jacobus.
Jacobus, 94, lived on the family farm her whole life, with the exception of the time she was a student at Penn State, earning her degree to eventually be a teacher. She was heavily involved in the farming operation, helping her father throughout his life until his passing in 1986. “We were very close,” she said. “He was wonderful.”
Jacobus cherishes many happy memories from her childhood on the farm, including the excitement she had helping to sell the first Christmas trees.
She and her husband, Bob Jacobus (now deceased), a U.S. Army (Air Force) veteran and then an engineer at the paper mill in Tyrone, married and their four children also grew up on the farm: Robert, Ron, Wendy and Sally. Now there are five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren — the youngest, just one month old.
Along with being a wonderful place to work and raise their families through the years, Watts first and later Jacobus also always saw the farm as an important part of the community. The farm provided work and produce to the local people as well as a place for recreation and relaxation. Jacobus said that they have allowed hunting and fishing throughout the years on the farm. In the early years, the Bellwood people would also come and bring picnics to enjoy under the trees or near the ponds.
The farm was purchased by the Gilberts from David Henshey, who originally built a loft cabin on the property, which eventually would be renovated into the farmhouse that is standing today. The original cabin had a kitchen with a large fireplace and a loft above at the chimney, where the family could sleep and stay warm. The home was built in 1842.
The Gilberts farm operation grew quickly in the 1920s, so much so that they built a roadside market, called the packing house, in 1926. During the Great Depression, Watts increased operation, buying additional parcels of land and renting acreage in order to produce more, much-needed produce for a wholesale business, adapting to the needs of the community.
The farm provided work for many in the area. Local laborers could walk to the fields. The location along Route 220 allowed easy access for customers to visit and buy produce. The farm supplied a wide variety of fruits and vegetables for sale locally throughout the growing season; and the increase in production even allowed for additional produce to be shipped and sold as far as Washington DC, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
During the Christmas season, beginning in 1924, the Watts sold Christmas trees, as several Scotch pines were growing on the property and were large enough to sell. During the Great Depression, Watts planted his own trees and by 1936, Christmas trees became a big part of the Logan Spring Farm operation.
Changing with the times
In the 1950s, it became harder to find field help. Along with the Christmas tree sales in winter, the Watts began to turn their operation from fruits and vegetables to Angus cattle. In 1956, Watts bought his first herd from Bedford County, adding four registered yearling heifers from West Virginia.
Bob and Betty Jacobus bought the family farm from her father in 1975 — a smooth transition as the pair always worked closely together.
Christmas trees and the future
Betty Jacobus said, “For many decades from 1936 until the 70s, I was a part of every Christmas season here. By late ‘70, Dad was slowing down, and so gradually I took over the Christmas tree business at Watts Farm.” Jacobus said that she has enjoyed the farm — especially the Christmas season — her whole life, and remembers helping to sell the trees since she was just eight years old. “I feel so blessed to have been here this whole time,” she said.
Beginning with the Scotch pines, many varieties of trees were added over the years to please the farm’s customers — from Norway spruce and white pines to the popular Douglas and Fraser firs, the Serbian spruce and more. Jacobus said, “I welcome the opportunity to meet and greet old customers and friends, new customers, new ideas.”
The family has been thankful for the support of the community as well as for so many valuable employees and others who have helped over the years, including Tom Pennington and Carmen Scorpaci, who “make such a difference,” said Jacobus.
Watts Logan Spring Farm remains a busy operation at the Christmas season, open everyday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They opened this year November 18, selling a mixture of greens in a variety of sizes, with fresh trees available Dec. 4.
Jacobus said that farms are very important parts of the community, both locally and all over the country and she and her family hope to preserve some or all of Logan Spring Farm for the community for many years to come.