Throughout much of Bartholomew County’s agricultural history, it’s usually sons who end up with the farm.
While the passage of farmland through generations of daughters for more than a century is rare, that’s exactly what took place within the family of Cindy Shoaf of Road 800N, Hope.
What’s more, there’s no sign that’s going to change at the 92 acres on the north end of County Road 100E, west of the Armuth Acres subdivision.
Property records credit George Lowe (1875-1976), a farmer and pioneer thresherman who moved his equipment from farm to farm for more 50 years, as the first generation of Shoaf’s family to acquire the land.
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But Lowe was raised in southeast Bartholomew County. It was his wife, Mathilda Armuth Lowe (1880-1954), who had strong family connections to the farm near the Flat Rock River northwest of Clifford.
The property, first acquired by the family in 1902, was eventually handed down to their daughter, Christina Peel (1907-1985), the wife of former Bartholomew County commissioner Russell Peel (1910-1991).
After Russell Peel retired from farming in 1977, the land eventually was turned over to the family of daughter Janet Peel Moore (1935-2013).
Janet Moore and her husband, Thomas, lived off Lutheran Lake on the other side of the county from her family farm. Besides co-owning the former Jonesville Grocery Store with his wife, Thomas Moore (1935-2012) also manufactured the Touchdown brand of fishing lures.
Nevertheless, the land was kept in the family, and upon Moore’s death was placed into a trust jointly owned by her three children, Anita Smith, Mike Moore and Cindy Shoaf.
Three years ago, Cindy Shoaf, a loan officer for Farm Service Agency, purchased with her husband all interest in the land from the trust.
The only regret she expressed is that the original homestead farmhouse south of the fields was split off by an earlier generation, and eventually sold to a non-family family member.
“I really hope to get that house back some day,” she said.
Although Cindy Shoaf’s parents worked outside agriculture, her husband, Jeff Shoaf, remains a member of a prominent northeast Bartholomew County farm family involved in both pork and crop production for almost 60 years.
While expressing pride in her husband’s family, Cindy Shoaf said she sees the Hoosier Homestead Award as a tribute to both her ancestry and eventual legacy.
“It’s largely about our heritage and being connected with the past,” she said. “But it’s also about my children’s future.”
It’s a future that looks remarkably like the past. That’s because all six children and heirs of Jeff and Cindy Shoaf are females.
Three married daughters — Emma Swainston, Brittany Shepherd and Christa Ricketts — reside in the region. Another daughter, Darcy Beatty, lives in Arizona, while Gwen and Frances Shoaf are attending college in Utah.
Because Jeff and Cindy Shoaf’s sons-in-law, Cody Swainston and Kyle Shepherd, are both farmers, Cindy Shoaf said she’s confident her family land will remain in safe family hands for decades to come.
While some might see the long lineage of female heirs as a coincidence, Cindy Shoaf and her daughters view it as both a source of pride and a responsibility.
Besides keeping the land in the family, all past and current women have consistently practiced excellent stewardship of the land, Cindy Shoaf said.
“That’s what being a member of this farm family is all about,” daughter Brittany Shepherd said.
Address: North end of County Road 100E by the Flat Rock River, west of the Armuth Acres subdivision.
Size: 92 acres (77 tillable, 15 wooded)
Year acquired: 1902
Founders: George Lowe (1875-1976) and Mathilda Armuth Lowe (1880-1954).
Current owner: Jeff and Cindy Shoaf
Number of generations: Four