Rathbun Farms, Eleven Mile Road, Chrystal (PC)

Owned by Howard and Melanie Rathbun (and Family)

Rathbun Farms in picturesque northern Potter County strives to make high-quality maple products at their family-operated Maple farm in Chrystal.

The farm, owned by Howard and Melanie Rathbun, has been producing maple syrup and other products at this historic location since Howard’s great-grandfather, Josiah, returned from service in the Civil War.

Josiah Rathbun served in Company G with the 46th PA Volunteers. He was discharged in 1863 after an eight-week hospital stay, and returned to northern Potter County, where he took over the land that is now Rathbun Farms.

A post office was needed in the Eleven Mile area, and Josiah became postmaster, as was common for retired Civil War Veterans. The settlement that Josiah lived in had no official name at that time, and the decision was left up to postal staff. The town was named Chrystal, but to whom or what that name can be attributed has been lost to time.

In addition to his duties as postmaster, Josiah also produced maple syrup, using an open arch in the woods to boil sap.

Josiah’s son Howard later took over the post office until its closure in 1919, and continued producing syrup on the property. A sugar shack was built in the woods for sap-boiling activities.

In 1956, third generation producer Ernie Rathbun moved the sugar shack from the forest to the farm, increasing visibility and ease-of-access for production and distribution.

The farm was then passed down to the current owners, Howard and Melanie Rathbun, and they and their children live on the century-and-a-half old farm.

The original post office building and home of Josiah Howard is still a part of the property, and is now the home of fifth-generation producer Duffy Rathbun and his wife, Anne Marie. Duffy’s sister, Paula, and her husband Gerald Webber live in another home on the property. Their children and grandchildren are the sixth and seventh generation of Rathbun children to be involved in sugaring.

The sugaring business has changed dramatically since Josiah Rathbun first started boiling in the open air over a century ago.

What started as a 75-acre farm, producing syrup and sugar for home use and trade, has become a nearly 200-acre farm, and maple products are sold to a wide array of customers.

In addition to maple syrup, the Rathbuns produce maple cream, candy, sugar and cotton candy. Howard and Melanie’s son-in-law keeps bees and makes honey products, as well, and part of the farm is leased to Hoffman’s Dairy Farm for growing hay and corn.

The new Sugar Shack is filled with modern equipment, including two natural gas-fired evaporators, a finishing pan, a reverse osmosis machine, filter press, automatic takeoff, canner and all the equipment used in honey production. The building also boasts a small kitchen, and all 1300 taps tended by the Rathbun Family have been put on a modern tubing and vacuum system.

The Rathbuns’ roots run deep in the area. Melanie hails from Shinglehouse, just a short trip down Eleven Mile Road from the village of Chrystal. Howard’s family has lived in the area since the 1800’s. His mother taught at the school in Millport which is now the site of the Oswayo Valley Historical Society, and the postmaster’s desk used by Josiah Rathbun is on display there.

Howard and Melanie’s granddaughter is the Agriculture Sciences Teacher at the Coudersport Area High School, and three of their offspring have been Potter/Tioga Maple Sweethearts, with one being chosen as State Maple Queen in recent years.

Rathbun Farms offers tours on Maple Weekend, and orders can be taken for Maple Products year-round. For more information on Rathbun Farms or to order high-quality Maple Products, call Howard and Melanie at 814-698-2421; Gerald and Paula at 698-2481; or Duffy and Anne-Marie at 698-2322. Rathbun Farms also has a Facebook page with pictures and details on upcoming events. The Sugar House is located at 2254 Eleven Mile Road near Shinglehouse, in the village of Chrystal.

 

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