An Interesting Talk – William Knight

Bayfield Apple Shed Sign

Bayfield Apple Shed Sign

Bayfield Apple Shed

Bayfield Apple Shed

[Signage states: Early in the twentieth century, William Knight, a Bayfield businessman, was pioneering in apple growing in the hills north and west of the city. His new orchards planted with fruit and in the 1930’s Knight constructed this storage cellar using field stone from his own orchards.  Knight’s apple farming flourished, but improvements in transportation that allowed for quick shipment of his apples he soon had little use for this shed and soon abandoned it.  The former Knight home graces the hillside just above the apple shed.]

“No man in Bayfield County has done more to develop its resources than the subject of this sketch.  Mr. William Knight is one of the original pioneers and has always been active in the business life of Bayfield.  To him the Bayfield peninsula is indebted for a large share of its fame as a fruit center. For several years he experimented in the growth of apples, cherries, etc. His persistence combined with intelligence finally won success. He found that fruit could be grown on the soil of the Bayfield peninsula successfully if it was from the seed of fruit raised in a climate similar to the climate of Northern Wisconsin, and to him are we indebted for the superior varieties of apples such as the Wealthy and Greenings.

Mr. Knight, at age seventy-two, is still active and vigorous, and at present has 150 Acres in orchard near this city on which he raises fruits the equal of which is seldom found anywhere outside the limits of the Bayfield Peninsula.  Although others have raised a few apples and other fruits in their gardens in the city, Mr. Knight is due the distinction of being the first commercial orchardist in the Bayfield peninsula.

At the request of the editor to publish “my talk” presented to  the Bayfield Horticultural Society on March 13, 1915 Mr. Knight gave his experience for eight years on a peninsula apple orchard”. Men of the Hour– April 4, 1915


Interesting Talk from William Knight

Bayfield Progress – April 18, 1915

George W. Boutin – Publisher 

 “To be successful in growing apples one must have courage, love and faith in the business and always have an eye to the care and advancement of the work. Neglect of prompt action at the proper time and manner many times is ruinous.  One must have courage to make the long fight, and perseverance to carry it through to the end. It is rather a weary journey to be piling up money and labor for several years without one pennies return.

This is where the love of the work comes in. One becomes absorbed and fascinated in the interesting work; he forgets and ignores the financial end of it all and were it not for his intense interest and the pleasure of his work he would have many hours of temptation to seek a more ready return.  Even the most optimistic man has his doubting moments—especially when he is pioneering the way, having no precedent or goal stake planted on the road.  This distance so far as commercial orcharding is concerned, has been climbing out of uncertainty, and much has been accomplished and mile posts have been established to guide the traveler on his way that will fill the dinner pail as he goes.   

Ten more years will show just as much progress as the last ten, and many varieties that are being tested now in a small way will be so far along as to show their value, and I think many of them will prove of great value to plant here.  

The last four years our apple market has hit the high, medium and low and will make a good average of what to expect in the future. The crops also averaged about what we can expect for the future, so I am making some figures based on my eight years’ experience.   These figures are based on a forty acre tract as a unit to figure from. One man and a team of horses will do all the work requiring 40 acres except spraying, and that will need two helpers.

All the time required of this man and his team is four months of the year—the balance of the year he can do other work. In this, the Bayfield district, the land, clearing and planting will cost $150 per acre, thus we have $5000 (sic) expenditure.  The second year I charge up interest at six per cent, cultivation $560, and I do this for three years. The fourth year I charge $170 for spraying and at the end of that period we have invested in principal, interest, and spraying $9,098.  Interest is figured on total expenditure, and figuring interest each year, at the end of eight years we have an investment of $14,668 and an income of from 4,000 bushels of apples–$2,680 which is credited to the orchard and a balance struck, leaving $11,988. 

Figuring the yield for the next five years you will receive approximately a yield of apples each year as follows; Ninth year 5000 bushels, 10th year 6000 bushels, 11th year 6000 bushels, 12th and 13ths years- 6000 bushels.

At the end of the thirteenth year the orchard has paid the owner every dollar it has charged against it and has $1,681 in cash to commence work on the fourteenth year, which should produce 12,000 bushel and would net him $8040, this being only four bushels to a tree. The income of the sixth and seventh year I have taken no account of, being about $1500 net. This I have left out for incidental expenses not accounted for in my figures, such as plows, harrows, sprayers, seed for cover crops, etc. These figures are based on land not cropped and nothing taken off but apples.

A man having little capital to start with could crop his land between the rows of trees for the first three years to strawberries and vegetables, making a good living for self and family, and if he is a good worker and uses the eight or nine months of the year the other work is not calling him, he will have cleared his whole forty cleared and in trees before his first planting begins to bear.  All that is necessary for any man to accomplish this is to have a sound body, energy, perseverance and a reasonable amount of brain matter for the steersman at the wheel.

This district is the only apple country that I know of in the United States that will show any such profits in apple growing.  Where is the secret? It is, no frost to kill the bloom, and harvest comes when markets are bare.  Wm. Knight.

This history brief was written by Robert J. Nelson. Generously sharing our local history through his research and writing.