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Fruit Came Early to Idaho

From "200 Years in the Making"
Highlighting Malheur, Payette, Washington, Owyhee and Baker County History in Idaho
Malheur Publishing Co. (Publishers of the Daily Argus Observer)
Bicentennial Edition, 1976, Page 1942

Fruit ranching and orcharding was big business around the turn of the century, as the Treasure Valley area climate true potential was realized. According to several valley residents the fruit growing industry grew and spread somewhat freely.

According to one source, the Commission of Immigration Labor and Statistics Study, Seventh Biennial Report, published in 1911, the fruit industry was well underway, with at least one example cited.

The commission cited the success of George Lattig, a Payette County, (at that time Canyon County), appleman.

Lattig, it states, moved to the area and purchased, in the spring of 1900, 48 acres of ground at a price of $75 per acre. He put 35 acres to orchard, using year old apple trees, for which he paid 15 cents each. In 1907, there were no figures for other years, although the trees may have been producing a small amount of fruit, yield was $74 per acre for a total of $2,590. By 1908 the yield had increased three-fold to $244 per acre for an $8,550 total and in 1912 it had again nearly doubled with yield reaching $471 per acre for $16,550.

Other orchards in the area were flourishing, according to Mrs. Lillian Moggridge, Payette, with apples and prunes being nearly equal in production.

Jonathon and Romes were the main stock of apple production in the days before the development of the Red Delicious. Mrs. Moggridge recalls a man by the name of J. J. Toole who raised much of the nursery stock at that time. He grew several types of tree stock as well as other fruit and nursery plants at two locations, one in Payette and the other at or near Cairo Junction.

The fruit business in the Payette area, according to Mrs. Moggridge, had grown to such an extent by the 1910 era that a cooperative packing house, the Wood Spur Packing Shed was formed and built. The storage and packing operation handled most of the business for that end of the valley and included a dryer for the prune operation. The old storage building, she noted, was on the site of the present Payette Valley Fruit Company.

The orchard that she and her husband Bert operated from their marriage in 1915, was producing until 1931 when they tore it out and replanted. In 1974 that set of trees was taken out and another new orchard has gone in. Red Delicious and red Romes are the select stock on the Moggridge home place at this time.

Across The River

The St. Paul Orchard company was founded by Fred Bailey in the early 1900s, according to two sources, Harold Trenkel, Cairo rancher and Hilton Clark, a Vale rancher.

Prunes were the primary crop, raised on acreage west of Cairo area. The firm became one of the first to ship the fruit out of the area. Transportation, according to the two men, was by horse and wagon to Ontario, then to some other destination.

Much of the orchard land was leveled, with Fred Trenkel leveling the trees on his property in 1942 just before the war.

The St. Paul Orchard Company was still operating in the late twenties and early thirties, Clark noted. He recalled the times when he worked as a box maker for the orchard company for a daily rate of about 50 cents. The prunes were shipped out in 30-lb lugs, he said, for destinations unknown.

Orchard maintenance included spraying, irrigating as well as pruning and trimming of trees. Spraying was accomplished, Clark noted, by a horse drawn wagon with a sprayer on the wagon, much like spraying garden plants today only at a different scale.

Various other orchard operations, such as pruning were apparently a new idea, according to the commission book. Yield on pruned and unpruned trees was discussed, leaving the idea that perhaps it was a controversial issue among growers.

The irrigation ditch in the Payette area helped according to other reports, with further irrigation plans implemented by the growers.

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