A FAMILY TRADITION
Phil’s grandparents on his father’s side were early settlers in the area. Grandpa Chester Gudgeon purchased the family farmstead early in the 20th Century and started tapping trees there in the 1920s. Phil’s father, Fred, began renting the farm in 1949 and bought it from Chester in 1959.
Fred married Alene Lawrence, whose parents made maple syrup on their farm north and east of La Farge on Maple Ridge in the 1920s. Fred and Alene continued the family tradition as they raised Phil and his siblings, tapping trees in the valley north and east of the farmstead, which is now owned by Phil’s brother Fritz.
On Sarah’s side, the Widstrands came to the area in the 1940s as newspaper owners and publishers, and the Mullers were early settlers southeast of La Farge, making maple syrup in the Bear creek area in the 1800s.
Phil’s grandfather’s brother, Leslie Lawrence, was 93 years old when he visited the sugarhouse in the Spring of 2002 and shared memories of making syrup with his father.
“We were tapping trees and making quite a bit of syrup in the 1920s,” he said, but they didn’t make the syrup for sale.
“We wouldn’t sell anything that was that good.”
Fred and Alene also have colorful stories to tell, like the time the horses ran off with a wagon loaded with ten-gallon milk cans full of freshly-gathered sap. The team did not stop until they had spilled all of the sap! The horses were then driven until they no longer had the energy for such mischievous behavior, and that was one of the last times they used horses and one of the last times they tapped the sugar bush on the farmstead.