During the last weekend of September, the community of Cory comes alive for the annual Cory Apple Festival. The festival not only funds the Perry Township Cory Volunteer Fire Department, but it’s also a way to remember and celebrate the rich history of Cory, which is known for its once-thriving apple orchards.
The community of Cory was founded in 1872 when the railroad began passing through the town. At the turn of the century, Cory was a busy city with blacksmiths, druggists, general merchandise stores, saloons, hotels and lodges. The railroad, which ran through the corner of town, was the lifeline of the community. At its peak, four passenger trains came through Cory each day, as they made their way between Terre Haute and Clay City.
Apple Orchards and the Cory Apple Boys
In the early 1920s, E.A. Doud started growing 20 acres of apple orchards. By 1929, the orchards had grown to 280 acres, yielding approximately 100,000 bushels per year. The orchards had upwards of 60 employees processing apples, and it drew large crowds on the weekends to purchase apples and cider. On Sundays, ice-cold cider, by the glass, was given free. Doud’s orchards are what made Cory famous for its apples.
At the same time, Doud’s apple orchards were flourishing, the sport of basketball was gaining momentum in Indiana. Ten boys made up Cory High School’s first basketball team, which was among the first teams in the Wabash Valley. The school did not have a gym, so players walked five miles to an old, unheated store building to practice. They covered the windows with chicken wire and turned the building into a gym. Doud bought the team their uniforms and equipment, and they called themselves the Cory Apple Boys, after Doud and his orchards.
After Doud’s death in 1965, the orchards were sold and eventually closed. The school also closed in 1967 and the building was turned into a community center. Needing a way to raise money to maintain the building and grounds, the idea of a community-sponsored festival was born — hence the Cory Apple Festival.
The first festival was held in 1970 and has been an annual event ever since. Today, it’s a way to remember Cory’s history and the money raised funds the Cory Volunteer Fire Department. The festival always includes an apple stand with cider, apple slushies and apples from Ditzler’s Orchard for sale. The Cory Apple Boys name lives on and is sold on t-shirts and apparel at the festival.
Local Business beyond Orchards
Today, Cory has a population of 441, according to the 2020 census. While the town is no longer centered around orchards and the railroad, it is a thriving business community in other ways and is home to nearly 40 companies that provide critical services and manufacturing to the Wabash Valley and across the country.
J & N Metal Products, LLC is a certified custom manufacturer of aircraft parts, assemblies and accessories. The company was started by Jordan and Nicole Brown in 2006. What began as a business out of Jordan’s garage soon evolved into a 15,000-square-foot workspace and assembly area with 56 employees in its current location in Cory. Their customers include GE Aerospace, the United States military, Crane Engineering, and companies from across the United States. The U.S. military contracts with J & N Metal to custom manufacture a series of dummy missiles, and it custom manufactures aluminum electronic mount assemblies for the military industry.
Brown and the employees of J & N Metal Products have over 50 years of combined aviation maintenance experience, and the fabrication/production employees in the manufacturing area have over 140 years of combined experience. Employees are generally local, coming to work at J & N Metal Products from Terre Haute, Bedford, Brazil, Poland and surrounding communities.
Fred Pruitt is the general manager J & N Metal Products, LLC. He started with the company in 2009 painting parts. He then went on to inspecting parts to assembling and supervising and eventually earned the title of general manager. When he started, the company had only six employees and he’s only seen it grow busier.
“I’ve been here 13, going on 14 years, and I’ve never seen it slow,” said Pruitt. “If anything, we keep gaining ground.”
Also in Cory is Corystone LLC, a specialized hauler in the heavy highway road construction industry that operates a fleet of tri-axle dump trucks. Corystone LLC focuses on INDOT projects hauling asphalt, millings and other aggregates used for Indiana road construction projects. What makes Corystone LLC unique is its owner, Kristin Souder. Souder started the woman-owned trucking company in 2018 after spending 13 years in corporate marketing, sales and banking.
Under Souder’s leadership, the company holds both an Indiana Department of Administration Women in Business Enterprises (WBE) certification and an Indiana Department of Transportation’s DBE Certification. The company began with one truck and has grown into the operation it is today.
Corystone LLC has hauled materials for several Indiana highway projects, including Highway 63 repaving and hauling asphalt to Highways 41, 46, 59 and 159. They also worked on the Highway 40 project in Brazil and Terre Haute two years ago and is working on several bridge projects with INDOT. The company is also involved in the Queen of Terre Haute casino resort project
Corystone LLC is a union operation, affiliated with the Teamsters Local #135, which gives their drivers access to health insurance for employees and family members, as well as a competitive high scale pay rate, pension and qualified savings plan.
West Central Indiana is not traditionally known for dairy farming. Yet Butts Dairy Farm in Cory has been supporting the dairy industry since 1929. Now in its fifth generation of the family business, Butts Dairy Farm custom feeds and houses cows until they are within two months of calving. At that point, the heifers are taken to a large dairy in Michigan that milks the animals. Butts currently houses and feeds around 300 cows and farms its 5,000 acres.
Cory Community that Cares
In the heart of town is the Perry Township Cory Volunteer Fire Department, formed in 1971. The fire house is he community’s only formal political structure, which consists of 13 board members. According to Fire Captain Glen Neisinger, volunteers respond to approximately 65 runs per year, with the majority being medical calls. The department has been called several times to help on interstates wrecks and truck fires. Because many of the volunteer fire fighters are farmers, they are available to respond to calls during the daytime hours. This distinguishes the Cory Fire Department from several other volunteer fire departments and allows them to assist those other communities.
The Fire Department is debt free, supported in large part by proceeds from the Cory Apple Festival. Volunteers site the community members as one of the reasons Cory and the fire department can operate so successfully.
“The people in this community are second to none,” said Shane Wiram, a volunteer with the Cory Volunteer Fire Department. “If you need help, they’ll come help you. Our Cory Apple Festival is a great example of that. We wouldn’t be where we are today without our community members.”
Just down the street from the Cory Volunteer Fire Department is the Bad Apple Saloon, an outdoor bar, restaurant and entertainment venue that has become an increasingly popular space in the last several years.
The Bad Apple Saloon’s original building was built in 1897 and was used as the Clear Creek Lodge #4497 IOOF Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The lodge owned the building until 1970 when it was purchased by Bob and Hazel McCullough and it became inactive. Kelly Fischer bought the building in 2009 as a restoration project. Later that year, the Bad Apple Saloon began as a beer garden and tent for music at the Cory Apple Festival.
Over the years, Fischer and his wife, Charity, continued improving the building and eventually opened the Bad Apple Saloon as an outside bar and entertainment venue in summer 2017. They are known for their woodfired pizzas and as a desirable venue for musical acts. The Saloon is family-friendly and currently open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from April through October. It’s become a popular place for farmers and community members to grab a drink, eat woodfired pizza and relax in their hometown.
While Cory may be a way from its apple orchard beginnings, community members work hard to remember their history and maintain a sense of pride in it. The Cory Apple Festival — now going into its 53rd year — is a testament to that commitment. The legacy of the Cory Apple Boys still lives on in their popular branded t-shirts and merchandise that continually sells out each year. Local businesses are not only making a difference in Cory and Clay County, but throughout Indiana and, in some cases, the country.
To learn more about the Clay County Community Builders Institute, please contact Jonathan Eilbracht, Clay County Community Engagement Officer, at email@example.com.
Article written by Leah Singer, a freelance writer who lives in the Wabash Valley.