Shipping twenty-three carloads of honey of his own production in one year would be something of an achievement even today, but in that early time it was sensational. He became the recognized leader among beekeepers of the far West, and so continued until old age slowed him down.
When California fruit growing was in its infancy some friction developed, and Harbison sustained serious losses because of the distrust of ill-informed fruit growers. Whole apiaries were burned to drive him from the neighborhood.
At one time Harbison owned 3, 500 hives of bees. John H. Martin, "Rambler, " recorded that he harvested 60,000 pounds of honey from 300 colonies of bees. That he was of an ingenious turn of mind is evidenced from his invention of the honey section, his hive which was so widely used in the West, and his stove smoker which was discarded when the bellows smoker came into use. He is remembered as a pioneer who introduced' commercial honey production into California. All of his inventions except the section have long ago gone out of use, but that alone is sufficient to entitle him to a place in the beemen's hall of fame.
Adam Grimm was another pioneer beekeeper who is remembered for his influence as a honey producer rather than as a discoverer. Bom in Germany in 1824, Grimm came to America in 1849 and settled in Wisconsin where he bought twenty acres of unimproved timber land with the meager savings which he brought to this country. He had been interested in bees in Germany, and made his start here by means of wild swarms which he caught in the woods. The bees, together with a small nursery, helped him toward independence. It was the bees, however, on which he later came to depend principally for his income. He was a pioneer in a new land with new problems and was making a beginning with a new industry.
Adam Grimm started a bank with money received from the sale of honey.
In 1864 he had sixty colonies of bees in all kinds of boxes and straw hives. In the closing year of the war honey brought high prices, which served as an inducement to look for more efficient methods of caring for the bees. That year he adopted the Langstroth hive and secured Italian bees. From that time on his progress was rapid. Only ten years later he sold his crop for ten thousand dollars and with the money thus obtained founded the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Jefferson, Wisconsin.
That a man could secure the capital from bees to start a bank was sufficient to arouse great public interest, and the fact was published far and wide. For half a century the story continued to be repeated by the public press, and this publicity had no little effect upon the development of the beekeeping industry.
Of interest here is a detailed report of Grimm's operation for the year 1870, reported to the Commissioner of Agriculture. *
* American Bee Journal, June, 1871.
That year he had wintered 600 colonies out of 670 from the fall before. These he reports as in poor condition. After selling some, he started the season with 575 colonies and increased by natural swarms to 903. As this was more bees than he cared for at that time, he united some colonies and prepared to winter 730 for the next season.
With this large number of bees he reported a total crop of only 22, 725 pounds. The returns for the season, however, totaled $5, 742. 80, of which $3, 930 is reported for honey. Two hundred forty colonies of bees were sold for shipment to Utah for $2, 450 but not counted in the above return since they were sold so late as to be counted in the business of the following year. Among his expenses he reported the cost and board of a hired man for the year at $350, and about $500 for hives, honey boxes, postage on queens sold, and the expense of caring for his horse and wagon. His greatest number of colonies in one yard was 393, although the stated that 100 colonies is as many as can be kept in one location without reducing the per colony yield.
Although he continued his interest in the bank, he did not lose contact with his bees and gave them his personal attention during the active season. Unfortunately, he did not live long after launching his banking enterprise, for he died in 1876 at the age of 52. At that time he is reported to have had in the neighborhood of 1, 400 hives of bees in seven or eight apiaries in the vicinity of Jefferson.
Although he imported Italian queens and wrote for the bee papers of his time, he contributed little that was new or original. His financial success did inspire confidence and was, undoubtedly, responsible for starting others in the same direction.
Capt. J. E. Hetherington, of Cherry Valley, New York, was a disciple of Quinby.
Born in 1840, he started beekeeping at the age of twelve years, and by the time he was seventeen he was selling honey by the ton. When the Civil War opened in 1861, he was regarded as the most extensive beekeeper in the country. In the excitement of the time he enlisted in the army to serve until 1864, after having attained the rank of captain. His discharge came because of disability from wounds and for a time his life appears to have hung in the balance.
Captain J. E. Hetherington during his life was said to be the world's most extensive honey producer.
With returning health he took up honey production with his old time enthusiasm and was soon again producing honey on a large scale. At one time he made extensive shipments of comb honey to England, forwarding larger quantities than had been moved to that market previously. Hetherington received much publicity as the most extensive beekeeper in the world. At that time he had about 3,000 colonies of bees. It is doubtful whether he was entitled to such recognition, although, of course, there is no certainty as to what particular individual owned the largest number of hives at one particular time.
In any case, Hetherington was an extensive and successful beekeeper who made material contributions to the advancement of the industry. He conducted many experiments with foundation and the use of wire in the support of combs. He probably originated the use of wire for this purpose. He did not write much for publication, and, but for the fact that his operations were so extensive at a time when small apiaries were the rule, he would have been all but forgotten now. He appears to have been among the first to discover the technique of management which would enable him to care for large apiaries without the bother of much swarming. It is said that he was able to carry whole apiaries through an entire season without a single swarm.
Although there were many others at that time who kept enough bees to entitle them to be called commercial honey producers, it was these four who did it on such a big scale as to attract nationwide notice. Each was responsible for some contribution making for the progress of the industry, but, aside from Harbison's invention of the comb honey section and Heth-erington's use of wire in the support of combs, Quinby's improvement of the smoker was the only outstanding thing to be left behind. Were it not for the fact that they kept so many more bees than others of their time, they hardly would be remembered.
As Hetherington was inspired by Quinby's success, so many others have followed him, as they also have followed Grimm and Harbison-because of the assurance that bees could be made to provide a livelihood. We owe something to many men of the pioneer period, but it is to these four especially that we owe credit for a striking demonstration of the possibility of commercial honey production.