Fruit Industry of Bayfield Peninsula – 1910

Bayfield Peninsula 1916 Map

Bayfield Peninsula – 1916 Map

Fruit Industry of the Bayfield Peninsula

By Harvey Nourse (Excerpt)

Bayfield County Press – Friday, April 22, 1910

Harvey Nourse was a keynote speaker at a gathering of Ashland businessman in the week prior to this edition of the Press being published. Here he states some interesting facts;

Fruit growing in the Bayfield Peninsula is beyond the experimental stage. We have proven in numberless ways that this particular section of our great country is adapted to fruit growing and strange to say, our rough and stony land that years ago was considered by many to be worthless is now the most valuable land we have, and like the stony hillsides of old New England, support some of the best orchards in the country; so the old hills near Bayfield are destined to be planted as orchards.

One great essential in fruit growing is elevation and good drainage and on the hills we generally get both in the stony sand seems to furnish not only good drainage but also retains moisture sufficient for best results. Usually the best orchards sites are to be found where the hardwood and hemlock originally grew; soil that grew Oak, Maple, Birch, and Hemlock within four or five miles of the lake is, generally speaking, the proper location.

The lake is our protector and prospective fruit growers coming into our section should remember this in choosing a location, and while we’ve have had all these factors pointed out to us time and time again by the highest authorities in the country, and I might mention our Dean Henry of the Wisconsin University, who predicted years ago about the South Shore of Lake Superior would one day be the apple orchard of the state and also many other noted horticulturists that visited us from time to time. These men stood in wonderment as they saw the possibilities of fruit growing in the Peninsula and urged us time and again to set out trees, more trees.

 Of course there were a few trees planted in Bayfield by the early settler and some of them have been bearing fruit for nearly 50 years. It was the fruit produced upon these old trees that demonstrated to the horticulturists the possibilities of fruit growing on the Peninsula. But even with such authority as just mentioned very little was done until about five years ago, 1905, when George H. Whiting, of Yankton, South Dakota visited our section. Mr. Whiting is one of the largest nursery men in the west and it was my pleasure to show him what fruit we had growing near Bayfield at that time. I never will forget his expression of surprise as we visited one place after another, and he often remarked to his companion that no living man could have made him believe what he had seen that day. It took Mr. Whiting but one day to make up his mind that he wanted to grow some fruit on the Peninsula and he now has about 40 acres set to trees and will continue setting as rapidly as the ground can be prepared.

One after another followed Mr. Whiting and trees were shipped to our town in large quantities and last year they arrived in railroad car lots. About 40,000 apple and 25,000 cherry trees have been planted on about 400 acres planted to apples and 15 acres to cherries and plums. A few pear trees have also been planted. These trees have not been planted long enough to produce any quantity of fruit but from what trees have been planted previous years in the numerous gardens in town we are able to form some estimate of what our orchards will do and it’s not unreasonable to expect 10 acres of cherries planted five years to pay the grower $3000.

The apple will not come into bearing quite as early as a cherry but should seven years from planting pay the grower $250 per acre or produce a barrel or more per tree for it is an undisputed fact that trees come into bearing much earlier in our northern climate than they do farther south of us. I have visited orchards in central Wisconsin planted 10 years where very little fruit was produced and all the trees were quite large and it seemed to me should be bearing apples by the barrel. I’m certain that trees planted in our section will pay for land worth $100 per acre before any fruit whatever would be harvested from trees planted farther South”.

“In the Bayfield Peninsula we have 100 trees planted to an acre which is about the right number and they yield 10 bushels of apples to the tree as did a Wolf River tree in Mr. Flanders garden in Bayfield last season”. I simply used this particular tree as an illustration, and I would also not have you think that we consider the Wolf River an apple of high-quality, however it is not a bad cooking apple and I was very much surprised when in St. Paul some of the best restaurants in cities were using this variety of apple for their baking apple and charging $.10 apiece for them. I inquired as to why they used this variety in preference to better flavored apples when they told me that it was principally because of size and preference to serve one large apple to two smaller apples.

The crabapple proposition is tremendous when investigated. I have taken pains to look into this matter quite thoroughly and find out that if the Transcendent or Hyslop Crabs of the quality grown with us can be put on the Chicago market after October 1 they will bring two dollars per bushel and that there is an unlimited market for this apple that time of year.

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