Starke County Forest History

Starke County Forest

History of the Starke County Forest as known by Bruce Wakeland

The north 80 acres of the Starke County Forest were granted to John Marks of Butler County Ohio, in 1852. John sold it two years later for $150. The marsh in the north 80 acres was ditched and drained for use as farmland in 1899. As recently as 1945, onions were being raised in what is once again marsh. During the early 1900s most of the 129 acre Starke County Forest was cleared of timber and farmed. Three areas totaling 30 acres on the highest and sandiest ground were left in woodlands. A farmhouse and large barn were located on Division Road, and the house was lived in until I had it burned down by the Washington Township Fire Department about 1997. The barn was large with a hay mound, but it was in bad condition; and I tore it down in 1995. It had been used for storing equipment, and the onions produced in what had been the drained marsh. The footings for the house can still be found. The Lilly-Frog pond, located south of the main marsh, was dug in 1991. The marsh was mined for marl from the late 1940s until 1952. The largest and west most pond was the result of that mining along with several smaller ponds west of the center lane. To enhance wildlife habitat, I had the two ponds east of the center lane and on both sides of the old ditch, and the south pond just west of the lane, dug during the drought year of 1988. I purchased this north 80 acres in 1985. At that time most of the acreage was being farmed, except the marsh, the 7 acre woods, and the acre around the house and barn. I planted most of this cropland to trees in 1986, 1987, and 1989. The American Chestnut BC3F1 orchard, located south of the main marsh and east of the center lane, was planted in 1997. This orchard is one of many representing breeding step number 4 in a process requiring 6 breeding steps in an effort to breed trees resistant to chestnut blight. Work in this orchard was completed in 2007.

The south 49 acres of the Starke County Forest were granted from the US government in 1847 to Mary Ann Robbins for service in the Army. The old farm buildings associated with this south part were located just west of the Starke County Forest along SR 8 and were demolished before the 1960s. Parts of the old house footings can still be found. Fourteen acres of the south part of the forest were farmed until 1987 when I planted it to trees. This area is now mostly pole sized white pine. Ten acres of this south part were a Christmas tree field of Scotch pine during the 1960s. When the Christmas tree harvest was completed, all the unharvested trees were left to grow. I purchased this east 35 acres in 2000 and I cut down most of the remaining Scotch pine in 2001 to allow the oak that had regenerated naturally under the pine to grow. The pond in the south part was dug in 2005. The mostly open area along SR 8 was an apple orchard until about 1990. The 5 acres in the middle of the 13 acre woods in the west part of this south area is a timber productivity demonstration area. Every tree 12 inches in diameter and larger are measured every 5 years to determine their growth rates and productivities. This information is used by foresters to educate the public and to promote timber production. This west 13 acre woodland it is the result of regrowth after a clear-cut at about the time of World War II. I purchased this 13 acres in 1973.

This 129 acres was donated to Starke County by Bruce Wakeland in the form of the Irrevocable Starke County Forest Trust in 2011. The purpose is to provide a location for forest and wetland education and recreation for the general public.