No matter how much we love our home town, it is hard for most of us to imagine Plain City as the national center of anything. But there was a time in the latter half of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th, when it was just that. It all began with a Welshman named Thomas Jones.
Thomas Jones was born in Brecon, South Wales on July 29, 1823. When he was nine years old he came with his father to America. They settled in Columbus. In 1847 he was married to Miss Ninian (or Ann) Newton. He began as a dealer in cattle and sheep, and in the mid-1850s he bought land just to the north of Pleasant Valley (as the town was then named). Jones called his property the Pleasant Valley Stock Farm.
The Percheron draft horse breed originated in the French province of Le Perche near Normandy. Although attempts were made in the 1830s and 1840s to introduce the breed to the United States, it was not until 1851 that two stallions were imported who were to become the foundation sires of the Percheron horse in America.
One of these, Louis Napoleon, was imported by Erastus Martin of Woodstock and Charles Fullington of Milford Center. He was later sold to A. P. Cushman of DeWitt County, Illinois.
The other stallion, Normandy, was originally owned by Dr. Marcus Brown of Circleville. He was eventually purchased by Thomas Jones, who owned him for the final 26 years of his life. During his time at the Pleasant Valley Stock Farm he was known as Pleasant Valley Bill. He stood about 15.3 hands high (a hand equals four inches), weighed nearly 1,400 pounds, and was entirely white. (Percherons are born black and may turn gray or white as they age.) It is claimed that Normandy sired as many as 110 colts in a single season, and averaged 60 colts a year for 18 years. He average selling price of these colts was $200.
As farmers began to realize the advantages of the Percheron horse, its popularity spread across the country and into Canada and other countries. The Pleasant Valley Stock Farm thus became the center of a very active business. Thomas Jones died at his home on Feb. 18, 1908, at the age of 85.
His son Charles had been his father’s partner for many years. He was born in Pleasant Valley on June 9, 1850. The family legend is that when Thomas Jones purchased Normandy in 1863, the transaction took place at or near Camp Chase in Columbus, and Charles rode the stallion home.
Charles graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1873 and became the supervisor of the farm, continuing his father’s breeding program. He became secretary of the national Percheron Horse Association, which held its first national Percheron Horse Show at the Ohio State Fair in 1936. He was also active in local affairs, including the Corn Carnivals, the Methodist Church, the Masons and the Plain City Board of Education.
Charles was married on Oct. 29, 1879, to Ida S. Snider of Mt. Gilead. They had one daughter, Bertha, who married Pearl Crabill of Springfield. Charles held a dispersal sale in 1919 at which he sold off most of his stock, and retired from active business in 1924. Ida died on Nov. 4, 1935, and Charles died at his daughter’s home of pneumonia on Jan. 12, 1937.
The Pleasant Valley Stock Farm was subsequently purchased by the Hofbauer family and remains their home to this day.
Rosemary Anderson is the vice president of the Plain City Historical Society.
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