Upon many occasions Starr bought property near the commonwealth for his own protection. Most notable was the Schumacher Farm, a sizable tract adjoining the north boundary of the original forty acres.
“In years gone by,” he would begin, “two of our boys truanted, broke into the Schumacher farmhouse, and stole several things of no great value. When they weren’t recovered, I paid the family a good deal more than they were worth. TheSchumacher’s had no use for the Starr Commonwealth or for me after that affair… especially me.”
“Years later,” Starr continued, “Mr. Schumacher came to me and said, ‘I’d like to know if you want to buy my farm.’ I replied that I didn’t know it was for sale. ‘Well, it is.’ How much are you asking for it? He quotes a price of $25,000. I thought that was somewhat in excess of its value, and I said so. ‘You don’t have to buy it,’ said my old neighbor, ‘but that’s my price – take it or leave it.'”
Not long after he acquired the property, he sold from it “a worthless piece of marshland for $20,000 because a man wanted to build a house at that spot.” Then one day, “the oil men came and paid $5,000 for theprivilege of drilling on the land.” Here Starr would smile. “Already I was beginning to feel that the price I had paid was quite satisfactory.” When the oil prospectors discovered they had only a dry hole, theyimmediately paid another $5,000 to drill again – and this time they struck oil. Said Starr with an even wider smile, “We then had a good well which isstill producing after fourteen years – and we have all the fertile parts of the farm yet.”
Before the narrow bounds of the Scipio oil field eventually limited further exploration, the Schumacher farmyielded five more wells which continue to pump profits into the Commonwealths coffers. Although Starr was disappointed when the drilling ceased, he often noted later that his ventures in the petroleum business had netted the Commonwealth “more than I paid for all the land I ever bought.”
Source: Keith Fennimore. Faith Made Visible: The History of Floyd Starr and His School. Albion, Michigan: Starr Commonwealth. 1988.