In 1910, Frank L. Ross had a dream. He wanted to build a ‘model farm’ in Washington County, Pennsylvania, to practice the latest methods of animal husbandry and farm design. He built the Old Barn in 1911 for his bride, Margaret L. Condit Ross, who insisted that she have a proper house to live in. You see, Margaret had first ‘gone to housekeeping’ in a neighbor’s springhouse! The farm now boasts a beautiful red brick American Four Square with dormers, a slate roof, and four grand white pillars.
Frank and Margaret set about building a life on their busy farm with their five children – Frank Leslie Jr., Laura Jean, Romaine, Haven, and Wallace Shannon (“Uncle Tom”).
In 1917, a bungalow was built on the property for Margaret’s parents, Daniel Webster and Emma Virginia (Vankirk) Condit. Daniel had earned some local fame by enlisting in the Civil War along with his four brothers, and was a veteran of the Ringgold Cavalry.
Over the years, the Ross children married and left for their own farms. The two who stayed were Haven, who had been left brain damaged after a childhood illness, and Tom, who cared for his elderly parents. After Frank Jr, who went by Les, married Doris Marshall, the “little house” was built in the backyard for the honeymooners. This little house is where Hunny was born.
Frank Sr. and Uncle Tom set about bringing the finest livestock to Washington County, and had cattle regularly shipped in from out west, and from President Eisenhower’s farm. They farmed with McCormick Farmalls, which are still in use today! Uncle Tom drove a fancy team of horses, and they raised pigs, cattle, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and sheep.
Amy Ross Manko is the fifth generation working the farm. Her son, Drew Manko, is the sixth generation, and runs the meat and produce operation, Ross Farm Fresh.
At The Ross Farm, we raise sheep, cattle, turkeys, hogs, and Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys. We concentrate on “Heritage Breeds” instead of the more common commercial breeds that you’ll find at other farms – we find the old breeds to be more attractive, disease resistant, and just generally more interesting.
We are on the National Registry of Historic Places through the United States Department of the Interior as the “Frank L. Ross Model Farm,” and have been recognized by the local History and Landmarks Organization as a fine example of local agricultural architecture. Our place was featured in the Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh’s architectural exhibit “Barns: Vernacular to Spectacular” a few years ago, and Ross Farm Fibers was one of the “Newcastle Brown Ale Band of Brands” for the Big Game Ad in 2015. Amy was also featured in Gladys Magazine’s list of “Top Ten Entrepreneurial Moms” in May 2015.
We are pleased to know that Frank Sr.’s dream has become nationally recognized as an exemplary example of agricultural design. We’re now full time farmers, and I’m sure that the ancestors are smiling down at us, and are proud of our grit, gumption, and attention to detail.