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History of Cherry Crest
The History of Cherry Crest
The history of Cherry Crest can be traced all the way back to the late 1600s, to a woman named Marie Ferree and her family, who traveled to the United States to escape religious persecution.
The New World
With the issue of Louis XIV’s Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685, the Huguenots lost the right to practice their religion without persecution from the French state. Wealthy silk-manufacturer Daniel Ferree, his wife Marie Warenbauer Ferree, and their six children joined the thousands of Protestants who escaped to the surrounding countries. When her husband died in 1708, Marie Ferree gathered up her children and moved to London, England, where she sought out William Penn and arranged for a 2000-acre plot of land in the New World. The Ferree’s landed in New York in late 1708—Marie and her children, Daniel Jr., Catherine, Mary, John, Abraham, Phillip and Jane, as well as Catherine’s husband Isaac LeFevre, and Daniel Jr.’s wife. The finally made it to the Pequea Valley in 1712, where they settled in the area that is now Cherry Crest Adventure Farm and the surrounding land.
A Great Woman
Madame Marie Ferree died in 1716 and was the first one buried in Carpenter’s Cemetary, leaving behind a legacy of strength and perseverence. A. Stapleton’s book “Memorials of the Huguenots in America” writes this about her death: “Here this noble woman, who had drunk so deeply from the cup of misfortune, found a peaceful grave in 1716. She had accomlished her purpose to establish a new home for her posterity, many of whom are slumbering by her side. Her great influence still lives in the great multitude of her descendants who belong to the aristocracy of personal worth.”
Through the Generations
Fast forward to 1774, and we see Cornelius Ferree (Marie’s great grandson) and his wife Elizabeth, who built the limestone house and barn that can still be seen on the property of Cherry Crest Farm today. They built the house out of stones from their own lime quarry, located out in the meadow. Jacob Beam, the son of a Mennonite reverend, bought the farm in 1794, where he lived with his wife Barbara Nissley Beam and his mother in law, “Mama Beam.” Eventually the farm found its way into the Stoltzfus family, who owned it just before Jack and Donna Coleman bought the property. In 1987, Jack and Donna moved their family from Lambertville, NJ to Ronks, PA, searching for a slower pace of life in which to raise their three children: Shelly, Sherri and Jerry (two more sons, Jared and Dylan, were born in the 90s). They purchased Cherry Crest Farm and began dairy farming.
Cornelius the Cob-asaurus
In 1993, Don Franz (Creative Director of the American Maze Company) and Adrian Fisher (world’s leading maze designer) collaborated to create the first interactive corn maze at Lebanon Valley College: a 142,713 square foot maze in the shape of a dinosaur named Cornelius the Cob-asaurus. Don was delighted with the outcome, and corn mazes soon became a creative and business outlet for him.
The A-maze-ing Maize Maze!
After seeing an article in a farming magazine about one of the earliest mazes at Shippensburg, the Colemans decided to give corn mazes a try, to broaden the scope of their farm and bring in extra income. Of course, their friends and family thought they were crazy, but it turned out that Jack and Donna were onto something very good. The first A-maze-ing Maize Maze in Paradise, PA opened for the first time on August 1, 1996, at Cherry Crest Farm. The design, created by the American Maze Company, featured a steam locomotive, just like the one that passes through daily as part of the Strasburg Railroad. The first maze was oriented “upside down” from all future mazes, to make it look like the train was traveling down the actual train tracks that run parallel to the corn field.
That first year, Cherry Crest offered the corn maze, some smaller mazes, a petting zoo with farm animals, a wagon ride and a gift shop. The tickets were sold right at the entrance to the maze, and only cost $5. The wagon ride cost $1 extra, and everything else was free. The maze was only open for 31 days, but over 27,000 people attended! The Coleman’s knew they had something special going on. By 1999, the amount of days open to the public had doubled, and the attendance rate had more than doubled. The Barnyard area across the railroad tracks debuted in 2001, providing extra activities like the giant slinger, the hay chute slide, the hay jump tent and more. Each year, the Coleman’s added more and more activities, to increase value and entice visitors to keep coming back again and again. In 2008, the name was changed to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm to accurately reflect the direction that the business was headed.
Over FIFTY Activities!
Today, Cherry Crest Adventure Farm is open to the public an average of 85 days out of the year, plus an additional 12-15 days for pre-registered elementary school field trips. Though the admission price has gone up over the years, the amount of activities has grown from the initial seven to a staggering 50+ activities, all included in the gate fee. All new activities are carefully thought out and designed to stay true to our agricultural roots, while providing a fun and educational experience.
A Wholesome, Family-friendly Environment
Some of the original activities like the giant slingshots, the slide and the Little Farmer’s Playland are still up and running and just as popular today as they were “back in the day.” Of course, our 5-acre corn maze remains the most popular attraction, and over one million guests have come from all around the world to attempt one of the world’s largest free-standing brain teasers. Jack and Donna Coleman still have a hand in the day-to-day operations of the farm, though the team has grown to include ten managers and assistant managers, and over 200 seasonal employees! Through it all, Cherry Crest has remained a wholesome, family-friendly environment for anyone who passes through our gates, both guests and employees alike.