The first tales told of what is now known as Excelsior Farms were of John Pratt. Mr. Pratt not only owned a farm but he was also a prominent businessman in Albion, New York; in fact he built the Pratt Theater that still stands in downtown Albion. Some would go so far as to say that Mr. Pratt was actually a much better businessman than a farmer. Mr. Pratt was known to be a little eccentric and talked in a slow drawn out manner. As the first story goes, one day Mr. Pratt went out to help his nephew with the separation the mother ewes from their lambs. It was weaning time on the farm; nephew was performing the task. All the sheep were herded onto the upper barn floor and the lambs were separated out and put into another location outside the barn. Mr. Pratt thought he would help nephew with the task of separating the lambs. Mr. Pratt opened the pen where all the sheep were located. Nephew told his uncle that he needed to shut the door so the sheep would not get out.
"I - will - stop - them," Mr. Pratt steadfastly told nephew.
Nephew was irritated because the last thing he wanted was to have some of the sheep get out. Were this to happen, the entire separation process would have to begin again after the sheep were rounded up. Nephew caught the next lamb and took it out past Uncle. Several lambs were now separated from their mothers and both the lambs and ewes were becoming nervous and alarmed. Nephew again warned his uncle to please shut the door. Mr. Pratt stood in the open gap and again reassured nephew, "I - will - stop - them."
Suddenly one of the ewes caught sight of her darling, bleating lamb outside the open door. The ewe bolted at Mr. Pratt. At the same time several others also started for the door. Mr. Pratt tried to tackle the first charging ewe to no avail. The desperate mother knocked Mr. Pratt flat and the rest of the herd promptly fled through the open door, trampling poor Mr. Pratt. Much heated colorful language from nephew filled the air along with the fleeting sheep. After the last ewe jumped through the open doorway, and over Mr. Pratt; cut, bleeding, and wounded Mr. Pratt picked himself from the ground and went into the house. His wife was startle to see him bloodied and his clothing torn and manure strewn. "John, what happened!"she exclaimed.
"Mother," he began in his drawn out way of talking dabbing the corner of his bloody mouth with a handkerchief, " - Nephew - says - I - am - a - damned - old - fool. Nephew - is - right."
The second story, while not as colorful is equally enjoyable for its understatement. Mother was always pestering John about the house she lived in. It was very run down even for the standards in the 1800's. She was particularly irritated because her husband was quite successful and had built a very impressive theater in downtown Albion. It was embarrassing because the other ladies she socialized with were all living in fairly extravagant houses. One day while helping her in the garden she gave him a verbal going over about her living conditions and the wretched house she had to live in. After venting she stormed off into the house. Mr. Pratt stood looking at the ground for several minutes. After that he put his rake up and went into the house.
Opening the door he said in his long drawn out way, "I
- will - build - you - a - house."
The house was built in 1860, one year before the start of the Civil War.
The following is a quote from a newspaper printed in 1913:
GARRETT, MELVINExcelsior Fruit Farm.
This farm contains 140 acres, in part of Lots 3 and 5,Township 16, Range I, within one and one-half miles of Carl ton Station, its nearest market. The farm's specialty is the cultivation of a variety of fruit in connection with the raising of wheat, oats, corn, barley, beans and cabbage. Twenty-five acres are in meadow, and fifteen in pasture; eight horses, four cows, and about seventy-five sheep are supported. Good wells and Marsh Creek furnish an abundant supply of pure water for buildings and stock. A large modern frame dwelling, containing fourteen rooms; main barn, 40x90, with basement; new horse barn, 30x50; three tenant houses; pig sty, and hennery make up the building improvements. The soil is a level, gravelly loam. This farm was owned by John Pratt for over sixty years, the present owner purchasing from the heirs, in 1900. Mr. Garrett's address Is Lyndonville, NY. The farm is now (1913) [sic] owned by his son Walter S. Garrett.
Mr. Garret owned the farm until 1958 when it was purchased by LeRoy and Doris Bannister. LeRoy Bannister needed a place for his beef cattle, sheep and 7 children. Several acres of orchard were pushed out. He and his family raised corn, cucumbers, 30 Angus, and apples and over 100 sheep. The focus of the farm became beef cattle and LeRoy named the farm Oak Orchard Angus Farm. The big beautiful gambrel roof barns burned in a windy thunderstorm one night in May of 1976 along with all the sheep and a few replacement heifers.
LeRoy Bannister began to experiment with hybrid vigor in his cattle and began crossbreeding with Charolais. A few years later a Simmental bull was used. Although the calving seasoned proved difficult, the calves excelled and several winning club calves were purchased over the years by 4-Hers. Mr. Bannister usually had the top pen of five cattle in the New York State Beef Cattlemen sponsored auctions.
In 1985 his son and daughter-in-law Roger and Christine Bannister and infant daughter purchased the farm. After researching the history of the farm, (and seeing the cattle were not exactly Angus) they renamed it Excelsior Farms. In 1987 the first high density orchard was put in. Roger switched to a Limousin bull for three generations. After discovering his fencing system no longer contained his Limousin crossbred cows he switched back to Angus. In 1994 Roger realized he was not very successful working for other people so he decided to seriously determine if the farm could support his wife and 5 children. A fruit tree nursery was put in. In 1997 an additional 25 acres of land was purchased from his neighbor. By 1999 over 35 acres of fresh fruit had been planted replacing the old standard orchards, the last of which were removed in December of 1996
In addition to the apples, currently there are three acres of peaches, 20 head of brood cows, four Percheron mares and two Percheron stud colts.