Mendon — The Early Years
The Dibble Seed House
Cover of 1930 Catalog, Dibble Seed Company. Photograph
by John G. Sheret.
In a 1956 letter to his customers, Harwood Martin, President of Edward
F. Dibble Seedgrower, wrote: "For 65 years we have been growing and supplying
the best in farm seeds to the farmers in the Northeast, and our motto
has always been: ''FARM SEEDS AND FARM SEEDS ONLY: ONE GRADE AND THAT
THE BEST OBTAINABLE AT THE LOWEST PRICE CONSISTENT WITH THE HIGHEST QUALITY.'"
The Dibble Seed House of Honeoye Falls was founded in 1891 by Edward
Franklin Dibble of the town of Lima, New York State. On August 16, 1894,
the business was incorporated under the name, "Edward F. Dibble Seed Company
of Honeoye Falls," with Edward F. Dibble, President; Frank P. Jobes,
Secretary and Treasurer. Directors of the new company were Mr. Dibble;
Frank P. Jobes, a prominent local grain and produce dealer with a warehouse
on Lehigh Street; and Alexander M. Holden, President of the Holden Bank
in Honeoye Falls.
Under this arrangement the seed business, started a few years earlier
by Edward F. Dibble, was consolidated with the produce business established
in 1883 by Mr. Jobes. By November 1, 1894, the new warehouse for the Dibble
Seed Company on High Street was ready for business and the owners were
looking forward to a switch (siding) from the newly arrived Lehigh Valley
Railroad in order to load freight cars for the shipment of their products.
The first business office was located at 10 West Main Street in the building
now housing the Hair Designers Beauty Shop. The main seed processing plant
was at 17 High Street at the intersection of Railroad Avenue (now Norton
Street), the location of the present Cranmer's Feed & Farm Store. The
corn drying and cleaning operation was handled in the "Central" building,
named for its proximity to the former New York Central facilities on Railroad
The "Central" building on Railroad Avenue
seed corn. Photograph by John G. Sheret
Mr. Dibble owned many acres of land in the Town of Lima that provided
the seed material for the enterprise. In October 1902 he purchased the
beautiful house, known as "Hillcrest," just west of the four corners in
the Village of Lima built in the Greek Revival style by Erastus Clark
"Hillcrest" home of Edward F. Dibble in Village
Photograph from Dibble Company catalog.
An 1896 advertisement proclaimed that the Dibble Company was:
The Largest Growers of Strictly Farm Seed in the World
Over 600 acres of Potatoes and between 2,000 and 3,000 acres of Beans
and Grain was the area devoted to seed crops in 1895.
Good, careful, thorough-going farmers within ten miles of Honeoye
Falls, who wish to grow strictly first class crops for seed purposes
can find a contract waiting for them, that will be both pleasant and
profitable, at the offices of the Edward F. Dibble Seed Co.
If you have good land, rich and free from weeds, call at the office
during the winter and we will give you something that will line your
pockets with dollars.
On August 1, 1902, the company, formed in 1894, was dissolved and the
name changed from the "Edward F. Dibble Seed Company" to "Edward F. Dibble
Seedgrower" with 150 shares of capital stock worth $15,000. Mr. Dibble,
as President, was assigned 90 shares; Alfred B. Neal, Treasurer, 30 shares;
and F. A. Neal, Secretary, 30 shares. The latter two individuals were
the owners of a strawboard mill that they had built on Paper Mill Street
in Honeoye Falls in 1898.
In the same year a publication, entitled the Honeoye Falls Commercial,
Business, and Professional Review, printed these words about the
Dibble Company: "Of all the many business enterprises of which we are
proud and which we have chosen for commendation, we refer to none with
more enthusiasm than this one.
"Truly the Dibble Seed House fills a want, for which hundreds of farmers,
had hitherto sought in vain. By its means the benefits of practical and
successful farming is enhanced and real profit is brought to it, in its
ordinary pursuits by producers being able to obtain seeds which produce
the greatest and most important results, in noted variety.
"Mr. E. F. Dibble is of great energy, tact and discretion in this particular
business, and his seeds of enterprise and much value are scattered throughout
the Union, bringing not only to the country, but to him, unprecedented
and good returns."
The following information appeared in an undated newspaper article: "Mr.
Edward F. Dibble graduated from the Genesee Wesleyan Seminary in 1883.
Mr. Dibble is a gentleman of high intelligence and originality. For several
years he was one of the associated editors of the Rural New Yorker
of New York City, one of the state fertilizer inspectors appointed under
the new law, and a lecturer on the Farmers' Institute Corps. For two years
Mr. Dibble served as president of the New York Farmers' Alliance and is
an active worker in any measure that will benefit the working classes.
He is a member of the Presbyterian Church of Honeoye Falls and superintendent
of the Sunday school."
At the time Mr. Dibble started selling farm seeds, he was living on the
150-acre home farm, located on the Livonia Center Road in the Town of
Lima, and merely intended to dispose of the products of his own farm direct
to the consumer. However, the demand was so great that his farm could
not begin to produce enough to satisfy the demand and he added other farms
from time to time. By 1916 the Dibble seed farms comprised 1035 acres
in addition to four farms belonging to his nephews containing 685 acres.
Seed shipments to farm customers ranged from 4000 to 5000 tons annually.
The Dibble Seed Company was an extremely successful organization primarily
due to the marketing skills of its founder, Edward F. Dibble. In addition
to an annual catalog, Mr. Dibble each year published numerous price lists
that reflected the extremely volatile farm seed market as well as helpful
information about the various products sold by his company.
1929 advertisement for Dibble's Seed Potatoes
The March 2, 1931, Price List contained a page addressed to MR. SEED
BUYER and read as follows:
It is sensible to be thrifty, and a thrifty man is a wise man. To
buy whenever you can buy the best goods for the least money is just
good, plain common sense, and in buying Farm Seeds you are always
sure when buying Dibble's of getting only the best money will buy,
and usually at lower prices than the same quality can be purchased
We do an enormous volume of business. One year we sold over 110,000
bushels of Seed Potatoes; another season over 100,000 bushels of Seed
Corn, and one spring, 60,000 bushels of Seed Oats.
You can readily see that if we handle twenty to thirty cars of Alfalfa,
Clover, and Grass Seeds in two to three months, we can afford to give
you the benefit of carload prices.
We are satisfied if we can make 5 to 10 per cent on our volume of
business, and thousands of farmers save many dollars in buying their
Farm Seeds from us annually. Why not you?
Hundreds of farmers have saved from $1 a bushel on Timothy seed to
$2, $3, $4, and even $5 a bushel on Alfalfa and Clover seed. Our recleaned
Timothy and Alsike Natural Mixture, 20 per cent Alsike, is the seeding
bargain on this year at $6 a bushel.
Seed Oats of good quality are in plentiful supply this year, and
of splendid quality. In fact we have thousands of bushels, weighing
from 40 to 44 pounds per bushel, thoroughly recleaned and graded at
80 cents a bushel. Bags free, of course. Some other seedsmen price
Seed Oats in their catalog or through agents, certainly no better
than ours, and perhaps not so good, at $1.00, $1.50, and up to $2.-per
Bushel. A DOLLAR SAVED IS A DOLLAR EARNED.
Edward F. Dibble with bushel of seed potatoes.
This photograph appeared in every Dibble Seed Company catalog.
Photograph courtesy of George Martin
The Dibble Company also mailed hundreds of penny postcards to it farm
customers stating that they could receive samples of the company's products,
such as clover, peas, corn, oats, etc,., by filling out the back of the
card and returning it with their request. On the front of the card was
an attractive photograph, taken from a rear window of the West Main Street
office, of the Falls at Honeoye Falls with the New York Central Railroad
bridge and the York Foundry in the background.
In an advertisement, dated March 21, 1919, with the title "Headquarters
for Farm Seeds" Edward F. Dibble made the following claim: "Warehouses
400 Feet in Length: capacity, 100 carloads."
The largest stock of all kinds of strictly Farm Seeds between New
York and Chicago. We do a Mail Order Farm Seed Business regularly,
the largest of the kind, but last year, owing to the Seed Corn famine,
we opened our warehouse to direct customers and sold thousands of
bushels to Western New York farmers who came in automobiles and took
the corn at our shipping platforms. This year there is the greatest
scarcity of clover seed ever known. Many dealers have no stock at
all and some others, according to the papers, are performing at the
expense of the farmer. Pay no fancy prices. Good roads lead to Honeoye
Falls from all directions. Come in your car and take your seed home
Come to headquarters for your Farm Seeds and save money.
Dibble's Certified Seeds are analyzed in our laboratory by a graduate
seed analyst and every bag has a tag showing Purity and Germination
Printing on a Dibble Company seed bag
Photograph by John G. Sheret
Florence Semmel Dreisbach recalls, as a young girl, on Saturday mornings
riding to the Dibble warehouse in Honeoye Falls with her father, Albert
Semmel, to buy seeds for the family farm. In the early years the trip
was made in a Model T Ford that was stored in a barn in the wintertime
and a horse drawn sleigh used for transportation. The Model T was later
replaced with an Essex automobile for trips to Honeoye Falls.
For much of the information about the company I am indebted to my friend
and Mendon neighbor, George H. Martin, whose grandfather Dean Garfield
Martin on February 3, 1908, acquired the 60 shares of the original company
stock purchased by Albert and F. A. Neal in 1902.
He then became associated with the company serving as treasurer and warehouse
manager. In the latter capacity he was in charge of the warehouses and
also responsible for the recleaning, handling, packing, and shipping of
all the seeds that were processed by the plant.
Mr. Martin was born June 20th, 1865, the youngest son of Amasa and Julia
Ann Garfield Martin. His ancestors for three generations resided in the
Town of Lima and were prominently identified with town affairs. He resided
in the large circa 1848 house built by is father on the 165-acre Bragg
Dean Martin became treasurer of the E.F. Dibble Seed Company
Photograph from Dibble Seed company catalog.
The addition of the Martin land to the acreage already owned by E. F.
Dibble brought the total worked by the Company for seed growing purposes
to almost 1900 acres. In addition to the combined Dibble and Martin interests,
the company also contracted for growing seeds on many hundreds of acres
of land owned by other farmers.
Dean G. Martin died December 16, 1918, at the age of fifty four, a victim
of the influenza epidemic that swept the country in that year. His obituary
in the Honeoye Falls Times read as follows: "A man of tireless energy,
of thoroughgoing business qualifications and sterling integrity, he naturally
won the confidence and esteem of all with who he came in contact. In public
affairs his many admirable qualities won for him the friendship and confidence
of his associates and he was called upon in various activities to the
limit of his time, and was always found faithful to every duty. He will
be greatly missed in the community."
Harwood Martin, son of Dean G. and Martha Martin, was born October 3,
1893. After his graduation from Cornell University in 1916 he joined his
father in the seed business in Honeoye Falls.
Harold E. Dibble, son of Edward F. Dibble, entered the business in 1913,
as a seed analyst in charge of the company's seed laboratory. He held
a B.S. degree from Cornell University and an M.A. degree from the University
of Wisconsin, specializing in plant breeding, seed testing, and plant
pathology. Harold E. Dibble had been vice president of the company for
seven years when he died August 23, 1929, as the result of a tragic automobile
accident near his Conesus Lake cottage.
His father, Edward F. Dibble, died four years later. This obituary appeared
on the front page of the December 28, 1933, issue of the Honeoye Falls
"Edward F. Dibble, founder and president of Edward F. Dibble Seedgrower,
passed away at his West Palm Beach, Florida, home Monday, December 25,
following an illness of many months.
"Mr. and Mrs. Dibble spent the summer at their place on Canandaigua Lake
and in November went to Florida as has been their custom. Mr. Dibble was
ill at that time and Dr. A. G. Hinman of Honeoye Falls, his physician,
accompanied him to West Palm Beach, where it was hoped there might be
some improvement in his health.
"He is survived by his wife, Dorothy Shuart Dibble; a son Edward F. Dibble,
Jr.; and two granddaughters, Jane and Jacquelin Dibble, of Rochester.
The remains will be brought to Honeoye Falls. Funeral services will be
held at Nau's chapel Friday at 2 p.m.
"Mr. Dibble established the concern here which bears his name forty three
years ago,. Operating in a limited way, at first, he lived to be the head
of what is said to be the largest strictly farm seed mail order house
in this country.
"A man of great enterprise, Mr. Dibble was a a business man of high order,
and a liberal contributor to every worthy cause. Socially, he was an ideal
companion. Mr. Dibble's death marks a tremendous loss for this community."
Edward Franklin Dibble was laid to rest in Oakridge Cemetery, located
on the Livonia Center road in the Town of Lima, just a short distance
from the family farm where he started his seed business.
Apparently Mr. Dibble had already sold "Hillcrest," his home in the Village
of Lima, when he signed his Last Will and Testament in 1931 specifying
that the majority of his estate be left to his wife, Dorothy Shuart Dibble.
The only two residences mentioned in the will are "The Willows" on Canandaigua
Lake and the home in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he passed away in
Mrs. Dibble also received title to her husband's boathouse located at
the foot of Main Street in the City of Canandaigua, New York, and his
cruiser, The Idler.
The Dibble Seed Company office building on West Main Street in the Village
of Honeoye Falls was also left to Mrs. Dibble. (Note: This building was
not actually owned by the company but by Edward F. Dibble personally and
leased to the company under an agreement whereby the latter paid the former
$300.00 per annum and was responsible for all taxes and maintenance.)
Mr. Dibble's will established two trusts with the Lincoln Alliance Bank
& Trust Company (now Chase Manhattan Bank) as Trustee. The first trust
provided a sum of $20,000, the income from which was to be paid to his
wife during her lifetime.
The second trust authorized the use of the income from $50,000 of his
estate, under the direction of his wife, to be used for the care, maintenance,
and education of his son, Edward Franklin Dibble, Jr., who was age seven
when the will was drafted in 1931. Any income, not required for this purpose,
would be paid to his wife Dorothy S. Dibble.
Mrs. Dibble was also bequeathed the 430-acre farm on the Heath-Markham
Road in the Town of Lima. The fact that the 150-acre "home" farm, where
he started his seed business, is not mentioned in his will would suggest
that Edward F. Dibble never actually owned the property or that it was
owned by some other member of the Dibble family.
She also received 80 shares of the 90 shares of stock that were assigned
to Edward F. Dibble when the Company was organized in 1902. The remaining
10 shares had already been transferred February 3, 1908, to Mr. Dibble's
first wife, Grace D. Dibble.
A final provision of the will read as follows: "Without placing legal
obligations upon my executors, I nevertheless take this opportunity to
advise them that Harwood Martin, of Honeoye Falls, New York, has been
Treasurer of my company, Edward F. Dibble Seedgrower, for many years,
and that I have implicit confidence in his integrity, his knowledge of
my business affairs, and his business judgment, and that I recommend to
my executors that his employment be continued and his advice in connection
with my business be duly considered."
The 80 shares of stock willed by Mr. Dibble to his wife, Dorothy S. Dibble,
gave her controlling interest in the company and she became president
after his death.
On September 24, 1936, Dorothy S. Dibble, following her marriage to Clair
L. Morey, a Canandaigua attorney, requested that 75 shares of the Edward
F. Dibble Company stock she had inherited, be transferred to her new husband.
On August 10, 1939, the Honeoye Falls Times reported that on
the previous day, a fire of undetermined origin caused heavy damage to
the main warehouse and elevator of Edward F. Dibble Seedgrower with damage
in excess of $15,000.
An account of the fire reads as follows: "Discovered at approximately
three o'clock by Miss Marguerite Appleton of Railroad Avenue, the alarm
was sounded by her father, Chester Appleton, and the local department
quickly responded. Hooking up to a Railroad Avenue hydrant, the pumper
was soon forcing powerful streams on the flames which had gained furious
headway. A call for help was put through to Lima and the department of
that village reached the scene in record time. The neighboring firemen
with their pumper are credited with very substantial aid in bringing the
flames under control and preventing spread of the blaze.
"Some 2,000 bushels of wheat, together with other grains, were stored
in the building, which contained grain cleaning machinery and other devices
used by the Dibble concern in preparing seed for its trade throughout
the United States.
"Officials of Edward F. Dibble Seedgrower say they are already prepared
to furnish a compete line of grass seeds, indicating quick action on their
"Harking back to old times, some ladies of the village banded together
and served coffee and fried cakes to the firemen.
"Again members of the two departments, Lima and Honeoye Falls, demonstrated
their ability to successfully fight the flames against heavy odds."
1894 Dibble Seed Company warehouse and seed processing plant.
Destroyed by fire in August 1939.
Photograph courtesy of
Anne Bullock, Honeoye Falls Village Historian.
An article in the January 25, 1940, issue of the Honeoye Falls Times
mentioned that: "By February 1 cleaning equipment and machinery will be
installed in the new building of Edward F. Dibble Seedgrower to replace
the building destroyed by fire in August of last year.
"The new building completed December 29, was constructed by Swartout
& Rowley, Rochester contractors, and is of hollow tile with supporting
structure of steel. It has a frost-proof potato storage basement and
building will house the most modern seed cleaning equipment, thus
placing the Dibble concern in better position than ever to satisfactorily
the farmers of this territory and those of adjoining states.
"At the time of the August 9 fire, the cement block warehouse adjoining
the main building in the rear was partially destroyed and the laboratory
in the front, as well as the potato storage at the side, was slightly
"Principal seeds handled by the company are potatoes, certified oats,
barley, hybrid corn, soy beans, buckwheat, alfalfa, clovers, and grass
seeds. The certified and hybrid seeds were developed by the Plant Breeding
Department, College of Agriculture at Cornell University, with which
Martin had a close relationship.
"Edward F. Dibble was the active head of the company until his death
in 1933. Under his dynamic leadership one of the largest strictly mail
order farm seed businesses in America was built up."
As recommended by Edward F. Dibble in his 1931 will, Harwood Martin remained
active in the management of the company as vice president and treasurer.
On October 24, 1951, Mr. Martin purchased the shares of the stock owned
by Dorothy D. Morey and became president and owner of Edward F. Dibble
Seedgrower. In a 1956 advertisement, his son, Dean G. Martin, is listed
as vice-president and another son, Ralph E. Martin, as secretary.
Harwood and Edith Martin with dog Roxy outside their Bragg Street
Photograph, courtesy of George Martin.
Harwood Martin passed away on August 4, 1963, at the age of sixty nine
leaving three sons, Dean, George, and Ralph. His wife Edith Shrader Martin
predeceased him on February 4, 1960.
As executor of the estate of Harwood Martin, his son, George H. Martin,
acted as the liquidating agent for the buildings and other assets of the
Dibble Seed Company.
The seed warehouse on High Street and the Central building on Railroad
Avenue were sold to business partners, Glenn Morse and Rent Cranmer, who
also owned the former Beam Milling Company on Lehigh Street. As mentioned
previously, the seed warehouse is now occupied by Cranmer's Feed and Farm
store and managed by Larry Cranmer, son of Rent Cranmer.
Dibble Seed Company warehouse
built to replace building destroyed
by fire in August 1939. Photograph by John G. Sheret.
The Central building is owned by the Mattstone Company which has done
extensive development work in the North Main Street and Norton Street
area and may convert the building into rental apartments.
George Martin, again acting as the liquidating agent for the Dibble Company,
sold the inventory and mailing lists to the Robeson Seed Company of Hall,
New York, thus bringing to an end a company that in 1896, was proclaimed
by Edward Franklin Dibble to be the "largest growers of strictly farm
seed in the world."
Sources of Information
George H. Martin, Martin family papers, Honeoye Falls Times, Various
Dibble Company advertisements, Ann Bullock, Honeoye Falls Village Historian,
John C. Aldridge, David "Josh" Canfield, Sally Gilbert, Cranmer Feed & Farm