America’s Oldest Family-Run Businesses

Posted Wednesday, Aug 12, 2009 by Allen B. Ury

appleorchard.JPGMany people who pursue a Business degree through Everest College or Everest University plan to one day take over a family business. They take great pride in the companies their parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents created and want the knowledge and skills necessary to keep these enterprises growing and thriving—so they can someday pass these businesses along to their own children.

How easy is it to maintain a family business generation after generation? Well, here are 10 families who have been able to do so successfully—some for more than 250 years. They represent the 10 oldest family-owned businesses in the United States, according to Family Business magazine:

1) Avedis Zildjian Co., Norwell, Mass. Founded in 1623 in Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey, the company makes…cymbals. That’s right, the oldest family-owned company in America is truly a “cymbal” for long-term success. Now in its 14th generation, the Zildjian family didn’t actually arrive in the States until 1929—but did so just in time to catch the wave of hot jazz bands that needed Zildjian’s unique wares. You can read all about them at

2) Tuttle Farm, Dover, N.H. When John Tuttle sailed from Britain to New England in 1635, his first taste of the New World was decidedly salty. (His ship sank.) Surviving the disaster along with his wife and four-year-old daughter, Tuttle made it to the colony of New Hampshire where he founded the 240-acre fruit and vegetable farm that remains in his family 11 generations later. A modest website can be found at

3) Shirley Plantation, Charles City, Va. Founded in 1613 on the banks of the James River between Richmond and Williamsburg, this tobacco and grain farm was purchased by the Edward Hill family in 1638…and has been run by his descendants ever since. In 1952, owner Charles Hill Carter, Jr. converted the farm to an historical tourist attraction, and in 1998 his children opened the facility up to weddings, corporate meetings and similar large-scale events. An impressive website detailing the site’s history and offerings is at

4) Barker Farm, North Andover, Mass. Eleven generations of Barkers have owned this small New England farm since it was founded in 1642. Today, visitors are invited to pick apples and flowers in season. Sorry, no Web site.

5) The Seaside Inn and Cottages, Kennebunkport, Maine. Today, Kennebunkport is famous for its aristocratic residents, including the Bush family. But back in 1667, it was a virtually uninhabited peninsula at the mouth of the Kennebunkport River. Needing someone to operate a ferry service across the river, Fernando Gorges, agent for England’s King Charles II, ordered one John Gooch to set up and operate such a service to accommodate local travelers. Gooch did Gorges one better by also building an inn with guest rooms and a tavern. The inn remains in operation to this day under the 12th generation family member Patricia and her husband, Ken Mason. Want a reservation? Visit

6) Saunderskill Farms, Accord, N.Y. In 1680, New Amsterdam Governor Peter Stuyvesant awarded Dutch Army Lt. Hendrick J. Schoonmaker 800-plus acres along the Saunderskill Creek as payment for military service. For 12 generations, the Schoonmaker family has been working the farm, which grows both fruits and vegetables. The family farm is one of America’s rare recipients of the Tricentennial Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Read more at

7) Allandale Farm, Brookline, Mass. Allandale proudly bills itself as “Boston’s last working farm.” Started by the Lawrence family at the turn of the 18th century, the farm specializes in organic produce, which it sells to local markets and restaurants, and operates a summer outdoor program for children. More information is available at

8) The Orchards of Concklin, Pomona, N.Y. The Concklin family, originally from Nottingham, England, had already been in America for 74 years when Nicholas Conklin bought 400 acres just north of New York City in 1711. Still in the Concklin family, the farm grows a variety of fruits and vegetables, and is renowned for its Apple Cider Doughnuts. Check out for more information.

9) Smiling Hill Farm/Hillside Lumber, Westbrook, Maine. Another family farm, this one was founded in the 1720s by Col. Thomas Westbrook and his nephew, Nathaniel Knight, in the Stroudwater region of what is now Portland. In the late 1970s, the property was divided into two separate enterprises, Smiling Hill Farms (agriculture) and Hillside Lumber (nursery). Both are still owned and operated by the 10th generation of Westbrooks. Read all about it

10) Nourse Family Farm, Westborough, Mass. In 1692, Rebecca Nurse was hanged for witchcraft in Salem, Mass. Ostracized, the rest of her family fled to the town of Westborough, changed their name to “Nourse,” and in 1722 established a 140-acre family farm that remains in the family to this day. Their Web site is (Note: no www.)

So, based on these 10 examples, what is the secret to keeping a family business in the family? Apparently, it helps to be rural. It helps to be small. And whatever you do, don’t go public!

Earn Your Business Degree at Everest

If you are planning to take over a family business—or even if you just want a practical background in business skills that would make you an asset to any company or corporation—Everest has a program to fit your needs, schedule and budget. Whether you’re looking for an Associate degree, Bachelor’s degree or an MBA, there’s an Everest campus that can help you achieve your educational goals. Contact Everest today for more information. (Note: Programs and degrees vary by campus.)

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