Nestled in the heart of eastern Indiana are rows of orchard trees surrounding a bright red barn. This is the site of one of the region’s favorite fall destinations: Dougherty Orchards. Dougherty’s is Indiana’s oldest family-owned orchard and boasts six generations of orchard owner-operators.
William Henry Dougherty established the orchard after serving during the Civil War. Upon his return from war, he purchased 160 acres of land and planted five of those acres with apple, cherry, and peach trees. He officially founded the orchard in 1883 and then left the orchard to his oldest son, Dolen, when William moved to Alabama with his wife and two youngest children due to his wife’s declining health.
Dolen took over the business in 1888, making improvements and expansions. His oldest son, John Clayton, joined the business in 1909. Because of John Clayton’s education in horticulture and a lifetime of living on the farm, he increased the size and quality of the orchard.
In 1960, the orchard was passed down to John Clayton’s son, Arnold. Arnold and his wife, Ann, increased the size of the orchard to 65,000 trees on 100 acres. This made the orchard more than 300 times larger than its original size in 1883. This was when the orchard really took off. Arnold added buildings near the original apple house, installed an irrigation system, introduced the automatic grading system, and built the cooler still used today, capable of holding 15,000 bushels of apples. Also during this time, the Dougherty cider press was replaced by a newer version capable of pressing 25,000 gallons of cider during a fall season.
In 1981, the orchard was passed down again to Arnold’s son and my grandfather, Sanford (Sandy) Dougherty. Sandy and Joan Dougherty were Ball State graduates and worked in education before turning their attention to the orchard and their growing family. In 1983, the orchard celebrated its 100th anniversary and was officially recognized as the oldest family-operated orchard in Indiana. Sandy and Joan were awarded The Hoosier Homestead Award and the Centennial Business Award. I have memories of my grandparents stopping at nothing to protect the orchard from Indiana’s unruly weather. In an attempt to save the young apple crop from frost damage, a helicopter hovered over the apple trees all night. I think that’s a true testament to the commitment of Indiana farmers. Sandy passed away unexpectedly in 2003. His wife, Joan, passed away 4 months later leaving the orchard to their three children.
After the unexpected and untimely death of their parents, the orchard was left to Andra, Shannan, and Tyler in 2004. They quickly learned how much it takes to run a farm and small business. Their struggles came partly because they were not expecting to take over the business so soon. They had a lot of questions that could only be answered by their parents. Another reason for the many struggles is because it is challenging to operate a small business in general. In 2016, Andra Dougherty-Solis purchased the orchard from Shannan and Tyler to become the sole owner. Andra began our winery the same year. With her husband, Jr., and five children, they are the current owners of the business. Her children will be the 7th generation to own the business.
We are proud of the six generations of heritage surrounding Dougherty Orchards, and it continues to bring us joy to serve those who stop by each year to make memories at our family’s orchard. Thank you for being a part of our history at Dougherty Orchards!