Worthington 150: Horace Ludlow developed Okabena apple

Ludlow a figure in Worthington's early history.

Okabena apple
Jay Milbrandt, descendent of Horace Ludlow, inspects an Okabena Apple tree growing on his farm along the shore of Lake Ocheda south of Worthington in this Globe file photo.
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WORTHINGTON — Prior to coming to Worthington in 1875, Horace J. Ludlow, a native of New Jersey, had learned the sewing machine business from an uncle and had been manager of the Singer Sewing Machine Co.

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After coming to Worthington, he bought land, in addition to hardware stock from Hewitt & Martin, which he kept for 12 years before going into the grocery store business.

In the fall of 1882, Ludlow purchased 87 acres of the old Hoffman homestead on the south shore of Lake Okabena. This was the first land farmed in the vicinity of Worthington. G.J. Hoffman had taken a claim here before Worthington was founded and before the railroad was built in the county.

The noted Okabena apple was started from seed Hoffman had procured from Peter Gideon, Excelsior, and was developed by Ludlow.

After a few years on the farm, Ludlow returned to Worthington, putting up a residence here and starting a nursery business.


In 1895, he returned to the farm, acquired 208 acres of lake shore land and, in 1907, erected his spacious stone and frame home, long noted for its hospitality. The residence later became part of the Lake Haven nursing home complex (now South Shore Care Center).

Ludlow spent thousands of dollars in fruit experiments, and his 400-acre Okabena Apple Orchard became well known throughout the state.

He and the former Mary E. Barlow had married April 4, 1873 at Ripon, Wisconsin. Of their three sons, Herbert Dwight was the only one to continue in the nursery business. Milton engaged in farming and J. Burr, one-time mayor of Rushmore, had many business interests in that community before becoming a banker at Minneapolis and then at Sibley, Iowa.

The Ludlows also had two daughters, Una, who died as a child, and Helen, who became Mrs. Frank Hansberger and made her home in Ohio.

A timeline that celebrates big moments in our town's history.
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