Rochester Cider Mill is Oakland Township’s Oldest Cider Location

In 1938, Frederick Sargeant and his son, George, planted an orchard on a 73-acre parcel along North Rochester Road in Oakland Township. Sargeant’s Fruit Farm sold apples, peaches, and cherries, along with tomatoes, potatoes, and flowers from a farm stand on the property. In 1948-49, they made an addition to the building to accommodate a cider mill and an additional sales room. At first, the Sargeants took their apples to Yates Cider Mill to have them pressed into cider, but then Frederick and George purchased an old, disassembled press from Harry Yates and used it as a pattern to build and install their own cider press. 

Old photo showing cars from that time infront of the original building

Sargeant’s Cider Mill  – Photo Courtesy of Judy Sargeant deSteiger

Sargeant’s was the first cider mill operation in Oakland Township, predating Paint Creek Cider Mill by a decade. The orchard and cider mill business operated year-round, thanks to underground storage units that housed the apple and potato crops. Sargeant’s also offered rental storage in its potato bin to local farmers. 

In the late 1950s, the cider mill building was burned in an arson fire and had to be rebuilt. A doughnut room was added to the new structure at that time. 

Eight people look at produce in small sales room made of cinder block.

Sargeant’s Sales Room with Julia Sargeant (wife of George) facing the camera at the center – Photo Courtesy of Judy Sargeant deSteiger

In 1962, the Sargeant family suffered a double loss in the deaths of Frederick and George Sargeant. The family sold the cider mill property in 1963 to Dale O. Miller, proprietor of the Paint Creek Cider Mill in Goodison, while most of the land surrounding the mill was sold for residential development. Miller kept the Sargeant name on the cider mill, but he turned it into a satellite operation of his larger cider business in Goodison. He leased Sargeant’s to Dean and Julie Valovich, who had years of experience working at the Franklin Cider Mill. The Valoviches operated the Sargeant’s property, but the cider and doughnuts they sold were supplied from Miller’s Paint Creek Cider Mill. 

1949 ad for Sargeant's cider

1949 ad for Sargeant’s cider

In 1981, Oakland Township veterinarian Dr. Tom Barkham bought Sargeant’s Cider Mill, which by then had stood vacant for a couple of years. Barkham was not a stranger to the cider business, as he had taken over the Goodison Cider Mill from Lloyd and Marion Blankenburg in 1979. The Barkhams repaired the deteriorating building that had suffered during its years of inactivity and renamed it Rochester Cider Mill. However, the Barkham family faced legal challenges from Oakland Township over its operation. 

Because the property was zoned for residential use, the cider mill had been previously grandfathered as a non-conforming use. When Tom Barkham applied for a certificate of occupancy, the township argued that because the cider mill operation had ceased prior to the Barkham’s purchase of the property, the non-conforming use had been abandoned and a business could not be re-opened on the land. The Barkhams pressed their case in court, and in 1987 they were granted a limited non-conforming use order which allowed them to sell cider and related products during the fall season. After decades of additional legal wrangling, they won the right to operate the mill year-round in a 2014 court decision. 

Today, Oakland Township’s oldest cider mill location is in the hands of Tom Barkham’s son, Trevor. In addition to selling its signature cider made from a minimum of four varieties of locally sourced apples, Rochester Cider Mill also offers specialty ciders made with grapes, pears, and cranberries. The amount of product available for purchase varies according to the supply of high-quality ingredients, so it’s wise to stop in early and often for customer favorites.

Rochester Cider Mill is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. (hours may vary as cooler weather sets in). They offer a petting farm in the back, a picnic area, and hay bale climbing mountain for the kids. Along with their ciders and produce, they offer Christmas Trees toward the holidays. They take orders for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Front of the building showing the front door and mums for sale around the entrance

Rochester Cider Mill – Photo by Michael Dwyer

Rochester Cider Mill

5125 N Rochester Road

Rochester, Michigan 48306

248-651-4224

About Deborah J. Larsen

Deborah J. Larsen recently retired after 34 years as local history librarian at Mount Clemens Public Library. She currently serves as the research chairperson for the Rochester-Avon Historical Society, and writes on a wide range of local history topics.

Comments

  1. Donald Worrell says:

    Another gem of a local history article by
    Ms. Larsen! Please keep ‘em coming!

  2. Great article Deb! I like the stories of the less written a lot.

  3. I always learn much from your history insights !

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