History Of Horticulture In The County
In 1870 the most complete account of the development of the horticultural
interests of the county was written by H. J. Dunlap, now of Kankakee, Illinois,
but for many years secretary of the County
Agricultural, Horticultural and Mechanical Association. It is as follows:
"The first orchard planting of which I have been able to obtain any information was done about the year 1838 by William Sadorus, in the timber near the southwest corner of the county, now called Sadorus' Grove. It was made of fifty Milam sprouts obtained near Terre Haute, Indiana, eighty miles distant, and afterwards extended by planting 150 more of the same sort. These trees commenced to bear in 1842, four years after planting, and continued to produce large annual crops until 1854 or 1855, since which time there have been several failures, and many of these trees are now dead or dying. Several years after the orchard was planted some of the trees were grafted over to Vandevere Pippin, Yellow Bellflower, Roxbury Russet, etc. Some of these varieties have very good quality. The Roxbury Russet does not bear large crops, and is not a very good keeper. This orchard is in a cove in the timber, protected on the south, west and north. Mr. Sadorus is still living, and takes quite an interest in horticulture.
"Many other orchards were set out in this neighborhood from the sprouts produced from these Milams. The only valuable apple that was planted seems to have been the Milam.
"Several years after Mr. Sadorus' planting, orchards were set at or near Big Grove, near Urbana, by James T. Roe, Robert Brownfield, Fielding, Martin Rhinehart, James Clemens, William Robert and others. James T. Roe had a small nursery which consisted principally of Milams. Mr. Brownfield procured 100 trees from Kentucky, most Milam, Winter Wine and Yellow Bellflower, which continue healthy and bear good crops.
"Martin Rhinehart's orchard consisted of Bellflowers, Vandevere Pippin, Seek-no-farther, Winter Wine, Fall Pippin, Pound Sweet and Pumpkin Sweet. Mr. Brownfield now owns this orchard, also the one of 100 trees originally planted by him. Four years ago the first 100 trees yielded 400 bushels. This season both orchards had only 600 bushels. There had been no insects to diminish the yield of fruit until two years ago, when the coddling moth first made its appearance in numbers sufficient to destroy nearly the entire crop. Mr. Brownfield turned in his hogs to eat the fallen fruit, and thinks, had they been kept in it all the season, that he would have headed the moth, but as soon as the fruit was large enough to sell the hogs were removed. The fruit was not picked up every day, so that a sufficient number of worms escaped to injure the past season's crop, but not to as great an extent as the preceding one.
"Josh Trickle planted twelve seedling trees at an early day, some of which are now dead, others remaining thrifty and fruitful.
"Mr. Brownfield thinks the Green Winter Pippin his most valuable winter apple. The Rawles' Janet is one of the best keepers. Large Romanite was also planted quite extensively by the early settlers. The principal varieties brought to market from the old orchards are Milam, Pennock, Vandevere Pippin, Yellow Bellflower, Rawles' Janet and Winesap.
"It is almost impossible to find a good eating apple in either Champaign or Urbana during fall or early winter except Milams; but Snow, Rambo, Porter and some others of the newer varieties begin to make their appearance from the later planted orchards. Of these there are quite a large number commencing to bear. Prominent among these are the orchards of M. L. and M. Dunlap, J. B. Phinney, C. F. Columbia, E. Allen and others.
"Until 1856 there had been no established nursery in the county, but several parties had kept small stocks sent from abroad to be sold here. Nearly all the trees prior to that time came from the Rochester nurseries, and were mostly Baldwins, Northern Spys, Eussets, Greenings, etc., nearly all of which are valueless on the prairie, although isolated instances occur where individual trees of these varieties, from some local cause, have done well.
"The Messrs. Curtis of Paris, Edgar County, L. Ellsworth & Co. of Naperville, DuPage County, and other Western nurserymen, furnished more or less trees. To their credit be it said more of them are better adapted to our climate and soil than those brought from the East. I suspect this to be more the result of accident than design, for fifteen or twenty years ago the subject of what varieties were best adapted to the West was but little understood, owing to the limited experience of the orchardists in the West. Now the thing is different, and there is no valid excuse for a man to plant trees that are not hardy, productive and valuable.
"In April, 1856, M. L. Dunlap established the first nursery for growing and selling trees, commencing by planting 120,000 grafts, comprising nearly 150 varieties. Owing to the extreme dryness of the season, nearly all the grafts failed to grow. Doubtless this was a blessing to the future purchasers of these trees, had they lived and grown, for in this list of varieties were nearly 100 that are unsuitable for Western orchards; but at that time they were untried, and, therefore, it was not possible to know their value. The writer has often sold 100 trees for an orchard in which were from sixty to seventy varieties, the purchaser wanting as many varieties as possible. Now the desire of most planters has been narrowed down to ten or fifteen well-known sorts, and a disposition manifested to let some one else experiment.
"Mr. Dunlap, intending to make fruit-growing a part of his business, planted an orchard of 1,500 trees, 500 of these being seedling, into which it was the intention to top-graft new and untried varieties. Some of these have been grafted, others still remain. The first orchard was more of an experimental one than anything else, many varieties being then planted that the proprietor would not now allow to be set on his grounds, while others, new and untried, have proved valuable.
"Other nurseries soon sprung up, and tree planting was stimulated to a great extent; and had all the trees lived that have been planted in the county we should now be supplied with an abundance of fruit; but, as is usual (so far as my observation goes), not one in ten has even brought forth fruit.
"In the early planting of fruit trees, I have been unable to find that any pears, quinces, cherries or plums were planted, except the common Morello cherry; but of late years they have been extensively set out. The first cherry trees sold were, of course, from Rochester, and consisted of many thousands. I doubt if one tree ever bore a full crop, or else did it once and died. The principal variety now planted is the Early May (Richmond), of which hundreds of bushels are sent to the Chicago market from this station annually.
"Pear culture is yet in its infancy, but there is no good reason why it should not be as successful here as elsewhere. In the spring of 1865 the writer planted the first acre of strawberries in the county for market. The next season Mr. G. M. Rice set out five acres, Platt, Fuller & Earle twenty, G. D. Wicks three and several other parties smaller quantities. From that beginning of one acre five years ago has sprung up a large trade in this fruit, several thousand bushels being shipped from the country every season.
"In raising other small fruits not much is done, although the culture of raspberries, blackberries and grapes is extending, so that in two or three years the products from the present plantations will begin to make a perceptible impression on the markets.
"In my conversations with the old settlers I have often inquired .if seedling appear to retain their vigor longer than grafted varieties, and have been told that out of a given number of trees by far the largest number of seedling give up the ghost first.
"It also appears strange that there should not be some old pear trees, but I can not hear of one more than twenty years old.
"The first May cherries of which I have any knowledge were planted fourteen years ago. They were on Mazzard, Mahaleb and Morello stocks. Those on Mazzard are years since dead and forgotten; some of the Morellos are still alive and bear good crops, although the annual cuttings they received in their early days when scions were scarce have sadly marred their beauty and thrifty look.
"Peaches were extensively grown, while the county was new and before railroads brought in the curculio; but the winters of 1855-56 destroyed many trees, since which time, owing to the unfavorable sea-sons and curculio, not enough of this fruit has been raised for home use."
In 1877, or seven years after Mr. Dunlap's article was written, another authority in the county reviewed the horticultural situation which at that time was quite bright. He said: "We cannot close this article without at least a glance at the horticultural progress made during the past twenty years. Then there was not sufficient fruit grown in the county for home use. Great numbers of wagons came from the Wabash country every fall, laden with apples, mostly Milams, Vandivere Pippins and Pennsylvania Redstreaks. Now one seldom sees a specimen of either of the above-named, their places having been filled with varieties of Eastern and Northern origin. There are now thousands of barrels of apples and carloads of small fruit shipped from this county every year, and this industry may be said to rank next to wheat in its importance and value. In selecting a site for an orchard it is necessary to have all dry ground. Underdraining in an orchard is so much money thrown away. In two or three years the tree roots will fill the largest tile and entirely obstruct the flow of water. We should prefer to have a belt of some forest-trees on the south, west and north sides of an orchard, in order to break the force of the wind. A good hedge is also almost indispensable.
"For varieties for home use, where early bearing is required, we would recommend for summer, Red Astracan, Bed June, Sweet Bough and Benoni; for autumn, Snow, Stanard, Rambo, Lowell and American Pearmain, which is not an early bearer, but is one of the most delicious apples on the list. For winter, Jonathan, Smith's Cider, Minkler, Wagoner, Ben Davis, Winesap, Rawles' Janet and Willow Twig.
"For market purposes we should plant not to exceed four varieties and they of winter fruit, viz.: Ben Davis, Winesap, Rawles' Janet and Willow Twig.
"There are a great many other good varieties, much better in quality than those named, but all possess some defect.
"Of pears, peaches, plums, cherries, etc., the nurserymen keep an assortment of well-known varieties, all of which are more or less profit-able."
Source: A Standard History of Champaign County, Illinois, by J. R. Stewart, published by The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago And New York, 1918.