GAMBIER — One of the county’s most serene-looking spots is anything but serene under the surface as Saturday’s auction of the Mescher Farm in Harrison Township approaches.
Since being bought at auction by Fred and Ruth Mescher in the early 1960s, the picturesque 247-acre tract has been either home or a home away from home for five generations. Now, after nearly 50 years in the family, the farm is on the market for the second time in six months. Ruth Mescher, who survived her husband by more than four decades, passed away last year at age 95. Her simple will directed that the farm be sold, with the proceeds divided among her four children. She was adamant that the farm be kept intact, so that it would continue to reflect the township’s rural character. To the dismay of the siblings, however, unless frenetic behind-the-scenes efforts bear fruit, it will be parceled out Saturday in however many pieces generate the richest profit.
The Mescher heirs sold the farm in late June to David and Miriam Hershberger of Millersburg. They maintain that there was a crystal-clear gentleman’s agreement about the future of what the Meschers fondly call their gentleman’s farm. Be that as it may, the new owners never moved in. Instead, they contracted with Kaufman Realty and Auctions of Millersburg to flip the property. Now, with time running out, the Meschers cling to the hope that Kenyon College’s Philander Chase Corp. will attract a buyer willing to enter into a land trust that will assure the property’s long-term integrity.
The challenge, with scant lead time available to identify potential buyers, is daunting. The selling price to the Hershbergers was $1.3 million, about $1,300 per acre before factoring in the five-bedroom home, historic barn and outbuildings. The advertised partition of the land is in six tracts, ranging from eight to 94 acres, with oil and gas rights sold separately. Nevertheless, the auction rules don’t preclude sale of the parcels in combination or in total. Both Philander Chase Managing Director Lisa Schott and auctioneer Curt Yoder can envision an outcome that Ruth Mescher would like.
“It has been a mad rush to get information in people’s hands, but we’ve been inundated with calls,” Schott said Thursday afternoon. “Several calls were from people who are really serious about the property. Maybe I’m seeing things through rose-colored glasses, but I’m hopeful. It’s going to be an interesting auction.”
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