Royer Potato Farm-Keep Smiling

Photo taken by Dayton Newspaper. From Joyce Miller.

Story from Joyce Miller (Virgil’s great niece) Information also from daughter, Marjorie Weeks.

Virgil Royer graduated from Franklin Township.  Attended Manchester College in Indiana and attended Ohio State University.  Married Florence Miller of Greenville.  Parents of four daughters:  Lois MacDonalds, Virginia Chase, Marjorie Weeks and Alice Jean Kreider.  

Virgil began planting potatoes in 1923 becoming one of the largest distributors of potatoes in the Midwest.  As he grew his potato crops he built a potato storage house with a capacity to store thousands of bushels.  It was located 2 ½ miles north of Pitsburg.  The business enlarged to include selling seed potatoes from Maine, Pioneer Seed Corn, Tenneco fertilizer, Green Belt products plus other fertilizers and spray materials.  They also sold parts for potato harvesting and Hardie field sprayers.

Potatoe Field Day was held on the Royer farm for over 25 years.  Scientific methods were demonstrated for increasing the yields for corn and potatoes.  The wives were entertained by representatives from the county 4-h clubs.

Even though Virgil started with growing potatoes, he eventually enlarged by buying potatoes from all over the country.  Pitsburg became an important part of his business as that was where the railroad would drop rail cars full of potatoes from all over the country from California to Maine.  These were shipped to Pitsburg in refrigerated train cars in 100# bags.  They were transporated to the farm where they were repackaged in 10 and 25 pound bags to be delivered to local restaurants, schools, and grocery stores.  Don Ditmer had a daily route and took the orders to be delivered in his truck.  He had numerous helpers but his twin sons, Donnie and Ronnie, helped him in the summer. 

Virgil had four farms growing potatoes and seed corn.  These were farmed by his brother, Harold Royer, Harold Wyan, Alva Auckerman plus his home farm.

As his business grew he hired his nephew Joe Miller as his general manager In 1951.   Virgil ran for the State Representative for Darke County in 1961 winning as a write in candidate.  Virgil and Joe went to Maine every fall to meet with the Aroostock Potatoe Growers to buy seed potatoes for the spring planting. 

Royer had a tent at the Darke County Fair for many years.  They displayed fruits and vegetables grown by their customers.  There were also representatives from the companies to help answer the farmers questions about their products.

Madonna Miller helped with the bookkeeping through the years and also worked during the potato harvest in the fields collecting tickets from the bags the workers used to claim their wages.  After Virgil went to Columbus, she worked in the office full time. 

Joe passed away in 1964 and Madonna took over as general manager.  Virgil passed away in 1966.  The business closed in the fall of 1967 after the largest harvest of potatoes on record.

Virgil was a member of:

Charter President of the Pitsburg Lions Club

Greenville Chamber of Commerce

Ohio Potato Growers Association

Agricultural Extension Advisory Council

4-H Club leader

United Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association

Darke County Farm Bureau Association

Painter Creek Church of the Brethren

Virgil’s motto was always “Keep Smiling” and lived by that motto all of his life.

Given to AWTHS 2023 by Joyce Miller and Marjorie Weeks

Note:  Royer’s employed many people in the pitsburg area in all the aspects of farming from planting, growing, harvesting and rebagging the potatoes. 

Please follow AWTHS blog guidelines. Credit is to be given to writers, Joyce Miller and Marjorie Weeks and falls under the ownership of AWTHS archives.

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