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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 23:  More Historical Papers

The Orchard and Its Advancements

-As transcribed from pages 893 - 895

The apple stands at the head of the list of all fruits and thrives in more localities than any fruit grown.  In the early settling of Trempealeau County, along in the '50s, very few trees were set, and what were, were an experiment.  The first apples in Trempealeau County were harvested in 1858 by George Batchelder.  In about 1860 Messrs. Gray and Sparks started a nursery southeast of the village of Trempealeau, and induced the farmers to set trees.  Then came E. Wilcox in 1862 and at the close of the war bought out Gray and Sparks and started to run a nursery on a larger scale.  In an article written by E. Wilcox in March, 1870, to the Record, he stated that those who had orchards doing well were E. Barnard, J. Nichols, Amos Whiting, L. D. Ladd, Mr. Burns, D. W. Gilfillan, A. Grover, C. Perkins, J. Rhodes, Mr. Bomun, Mr. Cary, Mr. Wilbur, S. S. Luce, George Markham, Henry Lake and others.  E. Wilcox was a strong believer in the idea that apples would succeed in Trempealeau County, and had set out an orchard of 1,500 trees.  J. Nichols had three orchards of considerable size.  These trees were coming into bearing nicely when the severe winter of 1872 destroyed most of them, as well as the nursery stock of 60,000 trees.  Those that withstood the iwnter were Dutchess, Transcendent and a few other crabs.

In the fall of 1871 W. A. Jackson, of Galesville, bought 500 trees of Wilcox and buried them in the ground over winter.  They thus escaped the severe winter and were set out the following spring.  A few other farmers did likewise, only on a smaller scale.  These trees did well.  Those who were not discouraged replaced their orchards with hardier varieties, and in the fall of 1882 or 1883 A. J. Scarseth, of Galesville, packed 500 barrels of apples.  The empty barrels were procured fromt eh cooper shop of wilson Davis, conducted in connection with the flour mill.  These apples were sold to E. White, of Winona, with the exception of a few barrels which were shipped farther west.  There were some fine specimens of Snow, Perry Russet, Golden Russet, Utter, Seeknofurther, Pound Sweet, Talman Sweet, St. Lawrence, Ben Davis and many other varieties.

We boys, who were then in our teens, never will forget how these apples swelled our stomachs; and also the taste of those apple dumplings and the boxes of apples stored for winter.  I also remember helping father load about 500 pounds of hay on the rack, and in the center of the load, on top, were placed 20 sacks containing one bushel each, and taking them to Winona, selling them for from $1 to $1.25 a bushel.  The apples were free from worms or other defects.

Then came another winter when it seemed that the mercury would never stop going down.  This was in 1884, the low temperature killing nearly all varieties but the Dutchess of Oldenburg, Transcendent and a few top-worked varieties on the Transcendent.  Those Dutchess and Transcendents bore well, but htere was no market for them.  Twenty-five cents a bushel was considered a good price for these varieties.  Almost everybody had a few trees.

William Kass was another lucky man who had 160 trees buried in the ground.  The winter of hard frost last mentioned (1884) froze mostly Utter's Large.  This variety comes into bearing in from five to seven years after planting.  Mr. Kass was known as "The Apple Man from the Little Tamarack," and had everything his own way for 10 years.

In the spring of 1891 I set out 500 trees.  It was a favorable season and I did not lose half a dozen.  Some of the neighbors laughed at the folly of trying to raise apples in Trempealeau County, but I thought I knew my own business.  Their ridicule served to aggravate me, like when one tries to drive a hog bound to go the other way.  So the following spring I set out 1,000 more trees and later added 300 to that.  Then N. Perkins planted out 500 trees.  Mr. Kass, S. D. Grover, M. S. Grover, John Perkins, William Trim and J. Nicholls planted 100 trees each.  Many others tried smaller lots.

In 1895 I planted out in nursery rows 10,000 root grafts.  In three or four years these trees were sold to the neighbors, George Trim buying the largest amount at any one time, something like 650, and Ed Grover was another heavy buyer.  The tree agents from outside the State got busy and sold one-acre orchards.  These amounted practically to nothing.  The first fruit these orchards bore were sold to the grocerymen of Winona.  Each year these orchards were more productive.  In 1902 we began to ship in barrels to Minneapolis and St. Paul.  The output of the crops at this time was about 3,500 bushels.  Mr. Ward, of Winona, came over and bought five carloads of late fall and winter apples.  These were delivered in bushel crates at his cold storage.  That same fall two dealers came along from Milwaukee.  We sold them a car of No. 2 apples, which was shipped to the iron mines of Northern Wisconsin.  The years 1908 and 1909 were to more banner years, with an estimate of 10,000 bushels each year.  W. H. Craig, of Winona, was a heavy buyer and shipping was general.  In 1910 the spring opened up early and the trees were in full bloom by the 20th of April, one month ahead of time.  A snow storm and a heavy freeze settled the apple crop for that year.  This freeze set all of the older trees bearing every other year.  Then 1911, 1913 and 1915 were our fruit years.  There are a few exceptions with the younger trees.  There has been about 20,000 bushels raised each fruit year since 1910, and they have been distributed as far north as Duluth, Winnipeg, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and illinois.  There are many varieties being planted that will not withstand our severe winters.  When one comes along they will die out.  In the southern part of Trempealeau County there are about 225 acres planted to apples, about half of which are bearing fruit. 

-by John Grover.

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