The History of Ironstone Ranch
Nestled in the northeastern part of Lancaster County, this 100 acre farm has seen a lot of uses and experienced a few historic events in its over 150 year history. Originally built in 1860, the farm’s primary use was as a dairy farm. In 1928 the Hollinger family purchased the property and turned it into a fruit farm. Many of the original apple and pear trees remain on the property and are still producing fruit. Later, under the ownership of the Matesevac family, the property became home to a Christmas tree farm with over 80 acres of Christmas trees. One unique fact about the property’s history, is that Civil War troops mustered from Middletown, Harrisburg, and the surrounding areas, passed through Ironstone Ranch. After the war and the death of Abraham Lincoln, his funeral train traveled through the property on its way from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, as did the Liberty Bell.
Presently, the farm is owned by the Abel family, and in 2011, the 1860 white pine barn was meticulously restored to its former glory and exemplifies the craftsmanship of that era. Also, on the ranch’s property is an original 1860’s brick farmhouse that has been completely restored. The original pine floors, brick interior walls, and wood paneled walls were preserved and brought back to life. Outside the front door, there is a 58 ft. deep hand dug ironstone well which is fully functional and actually still has 8ft of water at its depths with an underwater light illuminating the bottom. Those that peer down the deep hole are always in awe of its construction and marvel how it was built. It presents a “window” into the past.
Currently the farm has been turned into a working horse ranch that hosts “Events with a Purpose” and is considered the “go-to” location in Lancaster County for weddings, receptions, corporate events, fundraisers, and even Civil War re-enactments where as many of 2,000 reenactors have converged to re-enact some of the key battles of the war.
With the elements of the original barn, the iconic “mini” barn, the orchard and its land, visitors can get the atmosphere of a real “working” horse ranch. Bridal parties, honeymoon couples, and those wishing to stay on the Ranch can rent the charming farmhouse and experience the ambiance and peace that Ironstone Ranch is known for.
While the history of the ranch, in itself, is intriguing, the primary purpose of its resurrection is to raise funds for the Brittany’s Hope Foundation, which was named after Brittany, the Abel’s first adopted daughter, aids special needs children throughout the world. All of Ironstone Ranch’s net profits go to this organization which was founded in 2000, upon the death of the Abel’s first adopted child.
It’s interesting to note, that many of the people who once came to the ranch for their milk, fresh fruit or Christmas trees, now have come back to memorialize some of the most impactful events in their lives.
We, the Abel family, realize that we are merely stewards (caretakers) of God’s property and we believe all we do on this property must be God-honoring. Come and pay the Ranch a visit. We are certain, you will experience the peace and tranquility so many other have tasted.