September 2, 2018

Yavapai Co's Astounding Agriculture: 1912

Those unfamiliar with the agricultural past of Yavapai county are sure to be astonished by the variety and success of the crops. Almost anything imaginable was planted and most did well--for a time.

1912 was a healthy year for both rain and crops with several varieties reaching mammoth proportions...

The original inhabitants, the Yavapai people, were hunters; not farmers. So when anglos applied the plow to the ground, they were dealing with virgin soil, packed with minerals. When this was combined with a wet year, the resulting fruit and vegetable crops were renowned.

The produce exhibits at the Northern Arizona Fair, (held during Labor Day weekend,) sheds light on the story. One crop that did especially well in Yavapai county was apples. Blue ribbons were won at the fair for 18 different varieties of Yavapai county apples. Other county crops deemed best included: pears, plums, grapes, potatoes, quinces, white corn, red corn, and popcorn.

1912 Schacht, 1st truck in Prescott.
The largest and most famous apple orchard was Fair Oaks. In fact, the first truck ever to drive into Prescott brought in 3000 pounds of Fair Oak apples in 1912. It would require the new vehicle 45 round trips to bring 10,000 boxes of apples into town. The truck was a Canadian-built, 50 horsepower Schacht that could reach 20 mph when fully loaded with two tons of cargo.

Additionally, "Yavapai County peaches took every prize under this class," despite the fact that entries came in from as far away as 2300 miles.

The Ferguson Valley area enjoyed a bumper crop in 1912. One farmer alone produced enough potatoes to fill two railcars as well as six tons of beans. Another farmer raised a bumper crop of corn exclusively to fatten hogs. This corn-fed pork was popular and brought top dollar.

The story of the first successful attempt at making the Granite Dells, near Prescott, AZ, a recreational attraction.

The paper reported the agricultural situation on Walnut Creek thusly: "Judge George F Ainsworth, who (has a) famous cabbage farm on Walnut Creek, reports the biggest yield of that article in many years, which reaches 25 tons. He begins manufacturing sauerkraut and will place the first consignment on the market in a few weeks. His fruit yield is estimated at 2000 boxes of apples. All farmers in that section are prosperous, the season being the best known in many years."

In 1912 JE Fisher of Williamson Valley purchased "the first mechanical appliance of the kind ever seen here, in a big potato digger, that is a new invention and a work of skill."

"It (had) such magnitude and (was) so weighty that it required 4 horses to move it along the streets and to its destination. Mr. Fisher states that his crop of potatoes this season will be so heavy that it is simply impracticable to dig them up by the usual method."

In the Big Bug area the crops included: white blackberries, red currants, cherries, raspberries, apples, pears, peaches, and plums.

Some would be surprised to learn of the large, successful farm of the United Verde Company of Jerome. They won ribbons for 14 apples exhibits, 4 different pears, 3 for quinces, 3 for plums, 2 for potatoes, and 2 for grapes.

The true story of a giant humanoid skeleton that was unearthed in Jasper, Yavapai County, AZ in 1911.

If the reader is not impressed by all of this, an inspector and potential investor from Oregon was.

"GM Wilkins, representing the Oregon Nursery Company, after returning from Walnut Grove, Skull Valley, Kirkland, Ferguson, the Aqua Fria and other valleys, is enthusiastic over observations made in the fruit growing industry of the county at large, and as is reflected in the large acreage of the various orchards now under cultivation and bearing prolific crops."

Mr. Wilkins stated that he was "astounded over the fine quality of the apples, together with the unusual size produced which excels anything in the fruit line he has ever inspected."

"The heavy production," the newspaper related, "is due to the sub-irrigation of the lands, it being only a few feet from the surface to water." However, this would soon begin to change. Yavapai county became more arrid, experienced less rain, and the growing population has been lowering the water table ever since.

For a time "Dry Farming" was attempted. Experts from back east came to give lectures on water conservation and use, but ultimately the program was little more than "plant and pray." Predictably, results were mixed at best. The glory days of Yavapai county agriculture were beginning to come to a close.

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Weekly Journal-Miner, 11/6/1912; Pg. 7 Col. 1.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/11/1912; Pg. 7, Col. 3.
Weekly journal-Miner, 11/13/1912; Pg. 3, Col. 3.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 12/25/1912; Pg. 6, Col. 2.
Weekly Journal-Miner, 11/6/1912; Pg. 2, Col. 4.

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