This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Byr.O. Pardee, Palmyra, N. Y
Nothing has attracted more attention lately in the markets of New-York, than the superb fruits of Wayne county. The pears especially - the fairest and most delicious Doyennes or Yirgalieus to be found in that market - come not from the Hudson, from New-Jersey or Pennsylvania - but, barrels upon barrels, from Wayne county. The soil of that county, abounding in lime and potash, seems so especially adapted to the growth of all the fine fruits, that the orchards and fruit gardens of that central portion of New York will, with very little care, produce not only the greatest abundance for the owners, but enable them to export more fruit than any county in the state. We are much obliged to Mr. Pardee for an opportunity to put on record the natural orchard fertility of this portion of New-York. Our pages have lately had so many more accounts of the pests of the orchard, in the shape of insects, that a stranger to the actual products of our orchards might almost think the blight and the curculio left us neither pear nor plum, from one end of the land to the other, while the fact is just the contrary.
Mr. Downing - It is quite pleasant to comply with your request, to furnish the readers of the Horticulturist with some of the interesting facts connected with the cultivation of fruit in Wayne county.
The county comprises a strip of land, say 17 to 20 miles wide, by 38 to 40 long, bordering on Lake Ontario, between Oswego and Rochester. Sixty-fire years ago it was a heavy timbered forest, uninhabited by the white man. At the present time that forest is almost subdued, so that there are very few acres of waste land to be seen in all its length and breadth, particularly in the western or older part, where, indeed, I may say there is hardly an untillable hill, or an unrecoverable spot of low ground, or a stony acre visible, so that Prof. Norton justly recorded of it - "This is a superb country, with wonderful natural advantages."
The face of the land, except from the Lake up to the Ridge Road, some four or five miles, is gently rolling, mostly from east to west. The soil is a mixture of sandy and gravelly loam, with sections moderately mixed with clay; is easily tilled, and the crops are very certain.
The soil and climate of Wayne county prove to be particularly favorable to the growth and perfection of all our various kinds of fine fruit. The grape, the raspberry, the blackberry and the strawberry, with civil attention, amply reward our care.
The pear has, to a very great extent, escaped or recovered from the effects of the pear blight, and the old standard pear trees around us have, during the last season, borne so well, that one firm in this village alone, shipped eastward last fall, between one hundred and fifty and two hundred barrels of the delicious "Virgalieu," as the White Doyenne is familiarly called in market. A few years hence our county will greatly increase its exports of this article from our young pear orchards, for the Messrs. Yeomans of Walworth, have already set out of this variety alone, over four thousand trees on the quince, and £. Black-man, Esq., of Newark, has also fifteen hundred trees for market production, besides numerous smaller orchards, I might name, including not only this favorite variety, but from ten to fifty or seventy other of the choicest varieties.
It has not yet come to my knowledge that the Virgalieu has, in our county, shown symptoms of cracking or degeneracy, although such may possibly be the ease.
Taneously; is reliable for the market, and its quality cannot be surpassed, as our premiums witness when in competition occasionally at the state Fair. In favorable seasons our county exports not far fron ten thousand bushels of dried peaches, but these are mostly from our common peach orchards, Hare Ripes, etc. Some of our private fruit growers number from sixty to seventy selected varieties of the peach, already in fruit, while a great portion of our citizens have from ten to twenty of the choicest varieties around their dwellings. We cannot, of course, compete with our New-Jersey and Delaware friends in the extent of our peach orchards, and yet many are growing this fruit in various parts of our county quite extensively, for market. One of our farmers, Mr. Odell, in the extreme north-east portion of the county, has already a rare peach orchard of fifteen hundred of the best varieties of trees, in bearing I am told, and for which he designs to seek a market by the help of a small schooner, via Oswego. Our poorest families can, many of them even now, indulge plentifully in the finest George IVth and Crawford Peaches, and the number is rapidly increasing.
Of cherried, it need only to be said that we raise them in abundant quantities, of unsurpassed flavor and size, and of the finest varieties.
We have a very large quantity of plums, including most of the new and best kinds, grown in our county; and the exports of dried plums from our county, in favorable seasons, will not vary much from three thousand bushels. But within a year or two, the black wart has most virulently and fatally attacked our plum trees, and threatens entire destruction to this fruit. The Peach Plum, and some other kinds, seem as yet to escape, but the genuine Green Gage, and most other kinds, are going rapidly. We do not so much regret this, as it has been a favorite argument with some dealers for years past, that compared with the peach it was hardly worth growing; being of the same season, of more difficult cultivation, and inferior fruit in all respects. This, however, has not prevented our enterprising amateurs from obtaining most of the desirable varieties.
We now come to our most important fruit, the apple, which, perhaps, no where grows more freely with little care, than with us, and yet our finest fruit growers always give the best cultivation. We have examples around us of high cultivation, that would do honor to the Hudson river districts; for instance, a retired merchant in a neighboring town, first purchased a side-hill of ten or fifteen acres, for a fruit orchard, and liberally supplied it with about five hundred loads of manure, the same quantity of leached ashes, and about an equal amount of swamp muck and coal-pit bottoms - after which he trenched it, and thorough drained the whole with pipe, until now I much doubt whether our county or any other, can any where produce an orchard of trees of five years old, of such extraordinary size and productiveness, as that of Mr. Yeomans, of Walworth. I understood Prof. Norton to say as much of this fine orchard, when we together visited this place last fall.
But to return, I can add while the apple always gratefully repays superior care, yet it is also true, that our orchards, left almost to nature with us, produce a fair quantity of excellent fruit.
Our orchards often largely overrun the estimate of production, a striking instance of which occurred last fall, where an intelligent farmer and his neighbors estimated the product of his orchard at one hundred barrels, and so sold it to the speculator, who succeeded in obtaining, however, more than five hundred barrels from it. Numerous other instances of orchards yielding two and three times as much as estimated, came under my own observation. Our single port of Palmyra, during the last season, cleared more than fifty-eight thousand barrels of grafted fruit east, and ten to twelve thousand bushels of dried fruit, while east of us. in our county.
Lyons, Newark and Clyde, to ship their quota. Mr. Wm. II. Rooms, of Williamson, one of our lake towns, who obtained the first premium of a silver medal and diploma, at the late annual meeting of the New York State Agricultural Society, at Albany, for the best and largest (134 varieties) collection of winter apples - is a young and enterprising farmer, occupying about one hundred acres of land, on forty-five of which he has growing in the finest condition, over seventeen hundred trees, comprising sixty to seventy varieties of the choicest apples. Other farmers have immense orchards, which yield up their products to them with no sparing hand. A few seasons since, one of my neighbors had two thousand grafts set in one spring, on a farm he had recently bought. Among the ear liest pioneers of Wayne county, were the Foster and Reeve families of this town, who penetrated this then unbroken wilderness, selected their location, marked their "preemption tree," and at the foot of the tree cleared away a few feet of ground, and sowed first some apple seeds for a nursery, and returned east to Long-Island, after securing their title to their soil.
The following season they returned with their families, and brought and introduced into their small nursery, grafts of the Esopus Spitzenburgh, Rhode Island Greening, and Roxbury Russet Apples, and from this small beginning these varieties spread in every direction, so that now these three standard varieties seem to predominate in our market.
I was quite surprised two years ago, on examining the last report of the canal commissioners, to find in the returns for that year, that the collectors' offices of Palmyra and Lyons, in our retired county, had shipped during the year, more dried fruit, by more than thirty per cent, than the entire state west of us, including Rochester and Buffalo, and of course, including the Ohio fruit via Buffalo; and also fifteen per cent. more than the entire state east of us to Albany. All the offices east cleared six hundred and ten thousand pounds; those west cleared five hundred and thirty-eight thousand pounds, while, Lyons and Palmyra cleared seven hundred and eight thousand pounds.
And yet it seems quite certain, that fruit raising in our county was never so popular as at the present time, or were there ever so many practically engaged urging it forward. It is made apparent to every one here, that to enjoy in profusion the finest fruits the world produces, costs really very little besides the pleasure of its cultivation; but the enthusiasm excited on the subject, causes fruit to be cultivated in many quarters, with most extraordinary care, and liberality of expenditure. Among men of various pursuits, I might instance Messrs. Lovett & Rogers, merchants of this village, Mr. M. Mackie, a farmer of Galen, and Mr. H. G. Dickenson of Lyons, an enterprising and intelligent mechanic, who has already over fifteen hundred fruit trees growing on his beautiful grounds.
Our sister village of Lyons started very early in the pursuit of raising rare fruits, and now can exhibit fruit gardens and orchards of great size and excellence.
Wayne county is under lasting obligations to our truly esteemed friends, John J. Thomas and Wm. R. Smith of Macedon, for their liberal exhibition of the choicest and most approved varieties of fruits, and also for supplying us with reliable kinds at cheap rates. I believe I can say in the name of Wayne county, they have never deceived us, which is a rare testimony for nurserymen, who with all their care are often liable to be deceived themselves.
Our Rochester friends, and Albany friends, and Flushing friends, and particularly our Newburgh friends, justly cfaim our acknowledgments, also, on behalf of their respective nurseries.
And yet the desire to increase our fine fruits, was never greater than at present. Last lake towns, four thousand fruit trees during the transplanting season; and yet we have no fear that as fine fruits as we can easily raise in Wayne county, will ever need to beg for a market. We will cordially rejoice with those who can or will excel us, and engage never to be jealous over a rival. R. G. Pardee.
Palmyra, Feb., 1851.