The Hood River Glacier, Hood River, OR., November 24, 1904, page 4

November Lewis and Clark Journal

     Just with the turbulent waters of the Hood river pour into those of the mighty Columbia, enthroned among the surrounding hills and guarded by the snow-capped sentinels of the valley, nestles one of the most beautiful little cities - aye, in all the West. As one stands on the heights of the city of Hood River and views the glorious panorama spread by the lavish hand of a bounteous nature, the majestic Columbia, ever rushing towards the sea, the broad expanse of fertile valley, so thickly dotted with comfortable homes and wealth-yielding orchards - sees in the distance the timber-clad mountains holding in their fastnesses untold wealth for him who will wrest it from them -- when one reviews all this and considers that hand in hand with all this beauty and grandeur goes one of the most delightful and equable of climates, the wonderful growth and rapidity with which, not only the city of Hood River, but the whole of the valley during the same name, is coming into prominence and attracting the attention of the Easterners, is no longer a mystery.
     Though the town was platted about twenty years ago, its growth for many years was slow; five years ago it numbered only 500 inhabitants. At that time new vigor was infused into the commercial life by a few of its citizens, who realized that the wonderful resources at their command pre-destined them to an important foothold in the industrial and commercial world. And already they have met with ample evidence that their efforts and time are not mis-spent. Hood River has a population of the present time of 1800, with every prospect of rapid and lasting growth as it comes more and more into the public eye. Situated on the extreme northern border of the great state of Oregon -- 27 miles from Mount Hood, the pride of all loyal Oregonians, only 65 miles from Portland -- it has everything to make it a desirable site for a home.
     Hood River is pre-eminently a fruit-growing district. The strawberries and apples grown here have secured recognition in all the leading markets of the United States on account of their superior size, flavor and color. The strawberry first drew attention to the fact that in the soil and climate where combined such conditions as existed in few, if indeed, in any other section. A peculiarity of the Hood River berry aside from its wonderful size is that its rich color is not surface, but extends clear through the fruit, causing it to remain red when cooked and canned, whereas most berries fade when heated or at least after a short time. After being canned two or three years the Hood River berry is found to be as vivid in color as when plucked from the vines. Another very desirable qualities which this berry possesses is remarkable firmness, which permits its being shipped in the fresh state as far as the Atlantic sea coast, a distance of over 4000 miles, where they arrive in first class condition. They are shipped in refrigerator cars, by special trains to the east principal Eastern cities during the berry season and are put on the market in such perfect condition that they command higher prices than do the berries grown locally. For example, this year Hood River berries after a 2000-mile journey sold for $2 a crate in the markets of Chicago when Michigan berries, picked the day before, were only bringing $1 per crate in the same markets.
     In 1904 Hood River shipped East 90,000 crates of strawberries, netting the growers $140,000. This does not include the immense amount used locally, which would probably aggregate another 25,000 crates.
     A marked peculiarity of this valley is that west of the Hood River are grown these remarkable berries, while the soil on the eastern bank is found much better adapted to the culture of the apples which have made the valley famous. About 800 acres are devoted to berry raising, the majority of the fields being small, from one to five acres. These fields run right up to the city limits, and this is laughingly urged as a good reason why city lots are so high priced, the land is too valuable to devote to building homes upon. This berry land is a rich, reddish, sandy loam, and has a large percentage of what is known as a shot gravel -- i.e., a small gravel, which resembles nothing so much as ordinary shot. When this is exposed to the air as the ground is cultivated it deteriorates and eventually disappears in a large measure. Scientists tell us it is the iron found in this gravel which imparts the fine color and firmness to the Hood River valley fruit.
     Most of these berry farms are of such size of that they can be cultivated and cared for by the owner without outside help until the harvest is ready to gather. These farms sell at from $300 to $500 an acre, and raise from one to two hundred crates per acre, owing largely to the care used in their cultivation. The leading variety used for commercial purposes is that known as Clark's Seedling.
     There is considerable uncleared berry land available which may be obtained at a very reasonable price. It is an ideal place for a small farm. What is known as a four-tier berries, or four tiers by and four berries in a row that completely fill the boxes, is the standard for shipping; anything smaller than five-tier berries being discarded and sent to the canneries. The grading and packing of the fruit is regulated by inspectors employed by the shippers. Through their vigilance the fruit grown and shipped away is kept at a high standard of excellence. About 65 per cent of the growers of organized for marketing their own berries under the name of the Hood River Fruit Growers' union. A few growers ship independently, and the balance consign their berries to local commission men.
     Nor is the berry season as short as some might imagine. Hood River valley is composed of a series of ledges or benches, rising from the Columbia river back to the mountains. On the lower bench, where the elevation is about 100 feet, the berries are ready for market by the middle of May; the next ledge, at an elevation of 400 feet, they attained perfection two or three weeks later; and up at what is known as Mount Hood settlement, where the elevation is 1500 feet, the Fourth of July finds the berries at their prime, while higher yet, and only eight miles from the city of Hood River, on the slope of Mount Defiance, the residents in July enjoy the luscious fruit about the middle of August, so that within a distance of eight miles they have strawberries practically from the middle of May until the first of September.
     While but passing attention has been given other small fruits, all flourish to a remarkable degree, and need only an opportunity to add immeasurably to the valley's wealth.
     One of the crying needs of the valley is a cannery, as much fruit goes to waste on account of the lack of adequate means to care for it. A capitalist or company seeking a location could not happen on a better one or a surer business venture than a cannery at Hood River.
     But the strawberries are only one of the fruits which have made Hood River famous. Equally or even more familiar is the term Hood River apples. Apple buyers from the East tell us there is absolutely no competition in the whole world for the Hood River Spitzenburg and the Yellow Newton Pippen. They are without peer. Such size and radiant color is unknown outside of the little valley. The iron which we have mentioned as lending color to the berries, combined with the continuous summer sunshine, imparts a warm glow to the apples which makes them of such beauty that when put up in fancy cartons and tied with ribbons the Spitzenburgs readily sell for $1 per dozen for the holiday trade in New York and London. They are eagerly sought for by the fancy fruit stands, hotels, ocean steamers and restaurants. The Spitzenburg, a rarely beautiful vivid red apple, is the favorite in the United States, but in London, Liverpool, Hamburg, Berlin and other European cities the Yellow Newton is the choicer fruit, bringing as high as $3.65 per box, and netting the grower $2.25.
     There are about 2800 acres of growing orchards in the valley. However many of the trees are not yet bearing. It is estimated that the crop this year will be about 100,000 bushels, or 160 carloads. Figuring on a conservative yield of about 300 bushels per acre, fruit men of this section say that the yield by 1907 should be between 800,000 and 1,000,000 bushels. When we know that the entire crop this year has been sold f.o.b. Hood River at $2.10 per box for a 4-tier Spitzenburgs and $1.75 for a 4-tier Yellow Newtons, and that there are about 96 4-tier apples in a box, we gain some idea of what an enormous source of wealth the orchards are and will be to the residents of this valley.
     These two varieties lead in the commercial orchards, though many Baldwins and Ben Davis are planted, principally as a pollenizer. While other varieties raised here are remarkably fine, they can be grown in other localities, but the Spitzenburg and Yellow Newton attain no such perfection elsewhere in the world. At Rogue River, Oregon, and in a portion of West Virginia, they raise very fine Spitzenburg apples, but not to compare with those of this valley, and they never bring the price of latter fruit does.
     It is an inspiring sight to drive through the valley at apple harvest time. The orchards are planted with methodical precision, the ground is as smooth as a lawn, the trees are pruned into uniform size and droop almost to the ground under their loads of red and yellow beauties. The majority of trees are grown in what is known as the wine glass shape and are headed so low most of the fruit is picked by men standing on the ground. It is then hauled to the apple house, where it is burnished by hand and packed by professional packers. No fruit is shipped until it inspected and pronounced in first-class condition. The growers are thoroughly up-to-date in methods of growing, handling and shipping, and have won many prizes at the world's fairs in the past few years.
     Four-tier apples are the standard, while 3 and 3½-tier apples are sold to the fancy trade and bring prices accordingly.
     A fruit fair was held in October of this year, which was a source of wonder to the many visitors. We print some illustrations this month of fruit exhibited there which speaks volumes. This exhibit was shipped intact to the fair at St. Louis, where it has attracted universal attention and admiration and proven a great advertisement for the valley and the whole state of Oregon.
     There are few absentee landlords in this section -- almost all the fruit farms being operated by resident owners, and as twenty acres or less is the usual sized farm it is almost like a city. A very few acres properly handled will soon make its owner independent. We were shown one orchard of three acres of 10-year-old Yellow Newtons which last year netted its owner $1300 per acre. In this orchard we were shown one tree which this year produced 30 boxes of apples. The are from 65 to 100 trees to the acre, depending on the variety and the individual fancy of the orchardist.
     Only a small fraction of the available apple land is under cultivation. Uncleared fruit land can be bought for from $30 to $100 per acre; that which is cleared and ready to plant brings from $100 to $400 per acre, while bearing orchards sell as high as $1000 per acre.
     Nor is the fruit the only source of income. The lumber industry is bringing $350,000 into the valley and is only in its infancy. There are about 150,000 feet of logs cut yearly in the surrounding mountains and rafted down to the big mills located at the city of Hood River. The mill men tell us there are millions upon millions of feet of the choicest timber in the vicinity of the Hood river, which will keep the mills cutting 200,000 feet of lumber daily, busy for fifty years.
     Grain and hay are among the principal export crops of the valley. Clover and timothy hay grow very heavy, the former yielding four to five tons a season in two cuttings. This affords unsurpassed dairying facilities, which in time will be developed though up to the present time it has been overshadowed by other industries.
     Hood River, with an abundance of water power at hand, offers every inducement for manufacturing plants of various kinds. A pulp mill would do well, as would also a woodenware mill. An engineer's measurement of the water power in the stream of Hood river shows 10,000 horsepower per mile for a distance of ten miles. This gives a total of 100,000 horsepower, a power, when converted into electrical energy, sufficient to operate the machinery of the state. A fifty-foot dam in the stream of this river is a projected scheme now underway by local capitalists.
     Transportation facilities are always of considerable moment in the growth and development of a new section. They are of the best at Hood River. The O.R. & N., the Oregon line of a great trans-continental road, passes through the city, affording three passenger trains each way daily. The Columbia river, with its many daily steamers, offers another and easy mode of transporting produce; while competition keeps the freight rate at the minimum.
     Besides these, Hood River is within easy access of three other trans-continental roads, so there is never a dearth of shipping facilities.
     While speaking of transportation it will not be amiss to mention the excellent county roads found in this valley. They are kept in fine condition by constant work, and the grades are not much more difficult than in a level prairie country.
     In the immediate city there is a plan on foot for an electric street car line between the city and the river dock. A franchise has been applied for and the promoter tells us there is every chance of it being readily granted, and he promises that the line will be ready to operate within 90 days from the date the franchise is granted. All wires, rails, poles, cars and other equipment have already been secured, so there need be no delay. This will greatly facilitate handling orchard products, as it will handle freight as well as passengers.
     And what of Hlood River for a home? The climate is very mild and equable. The eastern range of the Cascade mountains protects it from the stormy winter and the high range of the same mountains on the west protects it from the heavy rains which visit the state further west. The rainfall here is about 35 inches, affording ample moisture for maturing early crops, while several large irrigating ditches enable the farmer to produce abundant yields of all crops throughout the summer regardless of the summer rain. Ben Davis, Whitesap and Jonathan are the chief commercial varieties grown there.
     The Lewis and Clark fair is not well advertised in the East, says Mr. Robinson. Now and then there is someone who has heard of the Portland exposition, but very few. He saw no worlds' fair literature whenever. But many people are coming west next summer to see the great Pacific coast country. Almost everyone is talking about the coast, and next summer there will be a great emigration westward.
     The Colorado fruit section is not to be compared to the Hood River country. The people there have no water to drink save what they get from the irrigating ditches. When the land is irrigated it has a fad of sinking. In one place where Mr. Robinson passed along the road the uncultivated land on one side was six feet above that which had been irrigated. This sinking of the land makes it very difficult to construct ditches.
     Ben Davis apples sell for $1, while fancy Winesaps bring $1.50. The orchards being so near Denver it takes but a little while to run the fruit into market. The Spitzenburg does not grow there because it does not color up, as elsewhere, and nowhere as at Hood River. While apple culture is paying in the Grand Canyon, many of the apple men are grubbing out the six and seven-year-old apple trees and planting to peaches, because they believe there is more money in the latter fruit.
     There are all the usual business interests represented in Hood River, to an extent very unusual in a town of its sized. A good electrical light system, water works, two stable and conservative banks, a live newspaper, particularly efficient schools, fraternal societies, a vigorous and growing commercial club, which is handled in a manner to redound to the credit of the city and her institutions -- all combine to make of Hood River a most desirable home town.
     It is not necessary that one that have large capital. Here is a place and a welcome for the farmer and the man of small means who is willing to work not only singly, but in conjunction with his neighbor for the upbuilding of this thrice favored portion of the footstool. The secretary of the Commercial club will gladly reply to inquiries concerning the Hood River country.

©  Jeffrey L. Elmer