Blueberry Hill

Blueberry Hill

Blueberry Hill
Photo: Robert J Nelson Collection

Blueberry Hill

From: Ruminations of a Rambler

Posted by Editor- P.V. Collins of the Northwest Agriculturist & in the Bayfield County Press, Friday, October 17, 1913 

 “In this article I shall discuss some of the beauties and horticultural and agricultural opportunities of Sylvan Shore, Bayfield County, Wisconsin, yet without that the exuberance of the real estate boomer, for I have no land on the market for sale.

The reader does not know where the Sylvan Shore is located; he has never heard the name before. His ignorance is excusable for I named it only last month, but remember that name, for it is destined to be heard of in the future.

The delectable place is located five miles south of the City of Bayfield and directly opposite the southern point of Madeline Island, the chief of the Apostle Islands and of the northern point of Long Island, four or 5 miles out, across the channel of Chequamegon Bay, Lake Superior.

I was going to call it Sylvan Bluff, but ‘Dean’ [of Agriculture, University of Wisconsin] Woods, who spends his summer among the Apostle Islands and is very familiar with the region gave me his official opinion that it was no bluff at all, but an excellent bit of the Garden of Eden where apples grow without snakes and where all is serene and lovely. So, we changed the name to the noncommittal “Sylvan Shore,” signifying a forest upon the very shore – and that is no “bluff.”

Yet the shore is partly beach and partly a rocky cliff, bearing Pine, Spruce and Balsam, Birch, Maple, Oak and Poplar. I have fallen in love with both the white-stemmed Birch and the red leafed Maples. The brilliant red autumn-colored leaves of these maples, glowing bright crimson all fall amid the rich dark greens of the planes and balsams and the softer greenness of the Birch or the shimmering “quaking Aspen’s,” as the Poplars are sometimes called, give a variety and beauty to the foliage that is most charming.

Rising directly from the shore is the slope of Blueberry Hill, to a height of 450 feet according to the government survey, and from this grand outlook one can view a marine that is infinite in its variety, splendid in its beauty and, when storms sweep the lake, most impressive and inspiring.

Adjoining Sylvan Shore, to the northward is the great orchard of George H. Whiting, the Yankton, South Dakota nurseryman, who owns 1000 acres here and upon 50 or 60 acres of it has some 6000 trees in bearing, mostly apples. North of this are the State Experiment Farm and State Fish Hatchery, between us and the city of Bayfield.

Mr. Whiting fully agrees with ‘Dean’ Woods and the horticulturists of the Wisconsin Experiment Station that this is a great fruit country. In fact, Mr. Whiting claims the credit of having first advocated it for commercial orcharding on a large scale, and the fact that he has developed a 6000-tree orchard there, in the last five years, is proof that his faith is backed by his work.

But the general investor is cautioned that the fruit belt does not extend all over Bayfield County. It is limited in its freedom from frosts, to about 5 miles from the lakeshore, for it is the tempering effect of this great body of icy water, Lake Superior, which controls the frosts, both in spring and fall, and aids the development of fruit, by retarding the too early blossoming in the spring until late spring frosts are past, and with the great volume of unfrozen water in the fall, by holding off early frosts until fruit has been harvested.

The peculiar qualities of the soil also give to the fruit delicious favor. Some of the soil is clay loam, some sandy loam with moisture retaining hardpan not too far below. The former is recommended for apples, the latter for cherries. On Madeline Island there is a 5-acre orchard, grown by the State Experiment Station, with both apple and cherry trees in fine bearing.

In fact, it was here upon Madeline Island, early missionaries of two centuries or more of old first established themselves for work with Northwestern Indians, and they planted an early orchard which trees, or rather the offshoots from their original roots, are still bearing fruit.

But it is upon the mainland within the five-mile shore belt, that the great Bayfield County fruit development is to come, rather than upon the islands, for the superior accessibility to the markets of mainland orchard’s is too evident to need discussion.

A branch of the Chicago and Northwestern railroad runs from Ashland to Bayfield, has a most accommodating management and with numerous flag stations, giving the farmer’s almost as easy use of the train’s as if it were an electric service, and also giving direct connection with the trunk lines to the metropolitan markets of Chicago, Milwaukee and the Twin Cities. There is talk of a new electric railway to be built from Ashland through Bayfield and up the coast, but so long as the steam road management is so accommodating, and the other road seems but adding another tint on to the rainbow, as “wasteful and ridiculous excess.”

There are but two fruit growers’ associations, one at Bayfield and one at Washburn, so that the climate is not salubrious for the middlemen; the farmers and fruit growers are doing middling well without their assistance. Small fruits of all kinds are super abundant, particularly wild red raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Bayfield County strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are of the highest quality, and it must be remembered that in the 5-mile fruit belt along the shore there has never been known to be a killing frost, nor a winter killed tree or plant. Snow is abundant, reaching a level of 3 to 4 feet, and it keeps the winter freezes from going deeply into the ground, and helps, with the lake, to retard early budding in the spring.

Summer is nearly a month later, in that region than in Iowa; but, from frosts to frosts, the growing season is practically as long, and the total seasons daylight hours are almost equal. It is a wonderful country for clover and timothy, and will become a great dairy region, together with mixed farming and stock growing.

As Minnesota is the Bread-And-Butter State, so Bayfield County will be the fruit and cream County, the latter serving as a dessert to Minnesota’s dinner.

Blueberry Hill at base the Onion River

Blueberry Hill at base the Onion River
Photo: Robert J Nelson Collection

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