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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsOur Italy - Chapter 11. Some Details Of The Wonderful Development
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Our Italy - Chapter 11. Some Details Of The Wonderful Development Post by :jamesc96 Category :Nonfictions Author :Charles Dudley Warner Date :May 2012 Read :3604

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Our Italy - Chapter 11. Some Details Of The Wonderful Development


It is not the purpose of this volume to describe Southern California. That has been thoroughly done; and details, with figures and pictures in regard to every town and settlement, will be forthcoming on application, which will be helpful guides to persons who can see for themselves, or make sufficient allowance for local enthusiasm. But before speaking further of certain industries south of the great mountain ranges, the region north of the Sierra Madre, which is allied to Southern California by its productions, should be mentioned. The beautiful antelope plains and the Kern Valley (where land is still cheap and very productive) should not be overlooked. The splendid San Joaquin Valley is already speaking loudly and clearly for itself. The region north of the mountains of Kern County, shut in by the Sierra Nevada range on the east and the Coast Range on the west, substantially one valley, fifty to sixty miles in breadth, watered by the King and the San Joaquin, and gently sloping to the north, say for two hundred miles, is a land of marvellous capacity, capable of sustaining a dense population. It is cooler in winter than Southern California, and the summers average much warmer. Owing to the greater heat, the fruits mature sooner. It is just now becoming celebrated for its raisins, which in quality are unexcelled; and its area, which can be well irrigated from the rivers and from the mountains on either side, seems capable of producing raisins enough to supply the world. It is a wonderfully rich valley in a great variety of products. Fresno County, which occupies the centre of this valley, has 1,200,000 acres of agricultural and 4,400,000 of mountain and pasture land. The city of Fresno, which occupies land that in 1870 was a sheep ranch, is the commercial centre of a beautiful agricultural and fruit region, and has a population estimated at 12,000. From this centre were shipped in the season of 1890, 1500 car-loads of raisins. In 1865 the only exports of Fresno County were a few bales of wool. The report of 1889 gave a shipment of 700,000 boxes of raisins, and the whole export of 1890, of all products, was estimated at $10,000,000. Whether these figures are exact or not, there is no doubt of the extraordinary success of the raisin industry, nor that this is a region of great activity and promise.

The traveller has constantly to remind himself that this is a new country, and to be judged as a new country. It is out of his experience that trees can grow so fast, and plantations in so short a time put on an appearance of maturity. When he sees a roomy, pretty cottage overrun with vines and flowering plants, set in the midst of trees and lawns and gardens of tropical appearance and luxuriance, he can hardly believe that three years before this spot was desert land. When he looks over miles of vineyards, of groves of oranges, olives, walnuts, prunes, the trees all in vigorous bearing, he cannot believe that five or ten years before the whole region was a waste. When he enters a handsome village, with substantial buildings of brick, and perhaps of stone, with fine school-houses, banks, hotels, an opera-house, large packing-houses, and warehouses and shops of all sorts, with tasteful dwellings and lovely ornamented lawns, it is hard to understand that all this is the creation of two or three years. Yet these surprises meet the traveller at every turn, and the wonder is that there is not visible more crudeness, eccentric taste, and evidence of hasty beginnings.


San Bernardino is comparatively an old town. It was settled in 1853 by a colony of Mormons from Salt Lake. The remains of this colony, less than a hundred, still live here, and have a church like the other sects, but they call themselves Josephites, and do not practise polygamy. There is probably not a sect or schism in the United States that has not its representative in California. Until 1865 San Bernardino was merely a straggling settlement, and a point of distribution for Arizona. The discovery that a large part of the county was adapted to the orange and the vine, and the advent of the Santa Fe railway, changed all that. Land that then might have been bought for $4 an acre is now sold at from $200 to $300, and the city has become the busy commercial centre of a large number of growing villages, and of one of the most remarkable orange and vine districts in the world. It has many fine buildings, a population of about 6000, and a decided air of vigorous business. The great plain about it is mainly devoted to agricultural products, which are grown without irrigation, while in the near foot-hills the orange and the vine flourish by the aid of irrigation. Artesian-wells abound in the San Bernardino plain, but the mountains are the great and unfailing source of water supply. The Bear Valley Dam is a most daring and gigantic construction. A solid wall of masonry, 300 feet long and 60 feet high, curving towards the reservoir, creates an inland lake in the mountains holding water enough to irrigate 20,000 acres of land. This is conveyed to distributing reservoirs in the east end of the valley. On a terrace in the foot-hills a few miles to the north, 2000 feet above the sea, are the Arrow-head Hot Springs (named from the figure of a gigantic "arrow-head" on the mountain above), already a favorite resort for health and pleasure. The views from the plain of the picturesque foot-hills and the snow-peaks of the San Bernardino range are exceedingly fine. The marvellous beauty of the purple and deep violet of the giant hills at sunset, with spotless snow, lingers in the memory.

Perhaps the settlement of Redlands, ten miles by rail east of San Bernardino, is as good an illustration as any of rapid development and great promise. It is devoted to the orange and the grape. As late as 1875 much of it was Government land, considered valueless. It had a few settlers, but the town, which counts now about 2000 people, was only begun in 1887. It has many solid brick edifices and many pretty cottages on its gentle slopes and rounded hills, overlooked by the great mountains. The view from any point of vantage of orchards and vineyards and semi-tropical gardens, with the wide sky-line of noble and snow-clad hills, is exceedingly attractive. The region is watered by the Santa Ana River and Mill Creek, but the main irrigating streams, which make every hill-top to bloom with vegetation, come from the Bear Valley Reservoir. On a hill to the south of the town the Smiley Brothers, of Catskill fame, are building fine residences, and planting their 125 acres with fruit-trees and vines, evergreens, flowers, and semi-tropic shrubbery in a style of landscape-gardening that in three years at the furthest will make this spot one of the few great showplaces of the country. Behind their ridge is the San Mateo Canon, through which the Southern Pacific Railway runs, while in front are the splendid sloping plains, valleys, and orange groves, and the great sweep of mountains from San Jacinto round to the Sierra Madre range. It is almost a matchless prospect. The climate is most agreeable, the plantations increase month by month, and thus far the orange-trees have not been visited by the scale, nor the vines by any sickness. Although the groves are still young, there were shipped from Redlands in the season of 1889-90 80 car-loads of oranges, of 286 boxes to the car, at a price averaging nearly $1000 a car. That season's planting of oranges was over 1200 acres. It had over 5000 acres in fruits, of which nearly 3000 were in peaches, apricots, grapes, and other sorts called deciduous.

Riverside may without prejudice be regarded as the centre of the orange growth and trade. The railway shipments of oranges from Southern California in the season of 1890 aggregated about 2400 car-loads, or about 800,000 boxes, of oranges (in which estimate the lemons are included), valued at about $1,500,000. Of this shipment more than half was from Riverside. This has been, of course, greatly stimulated by the improved railroad facilities, among them the shortening of the time to Chicago by the Santa Fe route, and the running of special fruit trains. Southern California responds like magic to this chance to send her fruits to the East, and the area planted month by month is something enormous. It is estimated that the crop of oranges alone in 1891 will be over 4500 car-loads. We are accustomed to discount all California estimates, but I think that no one yet has comprehended the amount to which the shipments to Eastern markets of vegetables and fresh and canned fruits will reach within five years. I base my prediction upon some observation of the Eastern demand and the reports of fruit-dealers, upon what I saw of the new planting all over the State in 1890, and upon the statistics of increase. Take Riverside as an example. In 1872 it was a poor sheep ranch. In 1880-81 it shipped 15 car-loads, or 4290 boxes, of oranges; the amount yearly increased, until in 1888-89 it was 925 car-loads, or 263,879 boxes. In 1890 it rose to 1253 car-loads, or 358,341 boxes; and an important fact is that the largest shipment was in April (455 car-loads, or 130,226 boxes), at the time when the supply from other orange regions for the markets East had nearly ceased.


It should be said, also, that the quality of the oranges has vastly improved. This is owing to better cultivation, knowledge of proper irrigation, and the adoption of the best varieties for the soil. As different sorts of oranges mature at different seasons, a variety is needed to give edible fruit in each month from December to May inclusive. In February, 1887, I could not find an orange of the first class compared with the best fruit in other regions. It may have been too early for the varieties I tried; but I believe there has been a marked improvement in quality. In May, 1890, we found delicious oranges almost everywhere. The seedless Washington and Australian navels are favorites, especially for the market, on account of their great size and fine color. When in perfection they are very fine, but the skin is thick and the texture coarser than that of some others. The best orange I happened to taste was a Tahiti seedling at Montecito (Santa Barbara). It is a small orange, with a thin skin and a compact, sweet pulp that leaves little fibre. It resembles the famous orange of Malta. But there are many excellent varieties--the Mediterranean sweet, the paper rind St. Michael, the Maltese blood, etc. The experiments with seedlings are profitable, and will give ever new varieties. I noted that the "grape fruit," which is becoming so much liked in the East, is not appreciated in California.

(Illustration: ORANGE CULTURE. Packing Oranges--Navel Orange-tree Six Years Old--Irrigating an Orange Grove.)

The city of Riverside occupies an area of some five miles by three, and claims to have 6000 inhabitants; the centre is a substantial town with fine school and other public buildings, but the region is one succession of orange groves and vineyards, of comfortable houses and broad avenues. One avenue through which we drove is 125 feet wide and 12 miles long, planted in three rows with palms, magnolias, the _Grevillea robusta (Australian fern), the pepper, and the eucalyptus, and lined all the way by splendid orange groves, in the midst of which are houses and grounds with semi-tropical attractions. Nothing could be lovelier than such a scene of fruits and flowers, with the background of purple hills and snowy peaks. The mountain views are superb. Frost is a rare visitor. Not in fifteen years has there been enough to affect the orange. There is little rain after March, but there are fogs and dew-falls, and the ocean breeze is felt daily. The grape grown for raisins is the muscat, and this has had no "sickness." Vigilance and a quarantine have also kept from the orange the scale which has been so annoying in some other localities. The orange, when cared for, is a generous bearer; some trees produce twenty boxes each, and there are areas of twenty acres in good bearing which have brought to the owner as much as $10,000 a year.

The whole region of the Santa Ana and San Gabriel valleys, from the desert on the east to Los Angeles, the city of gardens, is a surprise, and year by year an increasing wonder. In production it exhausts the catalogue of fruits and flowers; its scenery is varied by ever new combinations of the picturesque and the luxuriant; every town boasts some special advantage in climate, soil, water, or society; but these differences, many of them visible to the eye, cannot appear in any written description. The traveller may prefer the scenery of Pasadena, or that of Pomona, or of Riverside, but the same words in regard to color, fertility, combinations of orchards, avenues, hills, must appear in the description of each. Ontario, Pomona, Puente, Alhambra--wherever one goes there is the same wonder of color and production.

Pomona is a pleasant city in the midst of fine orange groves, watered abundantly by artesian-wells and irrigating ditches from a mountain reservoir. A specimen of the ancient adobe residence is on the Meserve plantation, a lovely old place, with its gardens of cherries, strawberries, olives, and oranges. From the top of San Jose hill we had a view of a plain twenty-five miles by fifty in extent, dotted with cultivation, surrounded by mountains--a wonderful prospect. Pomona, like its sister cities in this region, has a regard for the intellectual side of life, exhibited in good school-houses and public libraries. In the library of Pomona is what may be regarded as the tutelary deity of the place--the goddess Pomona, a good copy in marble of the famous statue in the Uffizi Gallery, presented to the city by the Rev. C. F. Loop. This enterprising citizen is making valuable experiments in olive culture, raising a dozen varieties in order to ascertain which is best adapted to this soil, and which will make the best return in oil and in a marketable product of cured fruit for the table.

The growth of the olive is to be, it seems to me, one of the leading and most permanent industries of Southern California. It will give us, what it is nearly impossible to buy now, pure olive oil, in place of the cotton-seed and lard mixture in general use. It is a most wholesome and palatable article of food. Those whose chief experience of the olive is the large, coarse, and not agreeable Spanish variety, used only as an appetizer, know little of the value of the best varieties as food, nutritious as meat, and always delicious. Good bread and a dish of pickled olives make an excellent meal. The sort known as the Mission olive, planted by the Franciscans a century ago, is generally grown now, and the best fruit is from the older trees. The most successful attempts in cultivating the olive and putting it on the market have been made by Mr. F. A. Kimball, of National City, and Mr. Ellwood Cooper, of Santa Barbara. The experiments have gone far enough to show that the industry is very remunerative. The best olive oil I have ever tasted anywhere is that produced from the Cooper and the Kimball orchards; but not enough is produced to supply the local demand. Mr. Cooper has written a careful treatise on olive culture, which will be of great service to all growers. The art of pickling is not yet mastered, and perhaps some other variety will be preferred to the old Mission for the table. A mature olive grove in good bearing is a fortune. I feel sure that within twenty-five years this will be one of the most profitable industries of California, and that the demand for pure oil and edible fruit in the United States will drive out the adulterated and inferior present commercial products. But California can easily ruin its reputation by adopting the European systems of adulteration.


We drove one day from Arcadia Station through the region occupied by the Baldwin plantations, an area of over fifty thousand acres--a happy illustration of what industry and capital can do in the way of variety of productions, especially in what are called the San Anita vineyards and orchards, extending southward from the foot-hills. About the home place and in many sections where the irrigating streams flow one might fancy he was in the tropics, so abundant and brilliant are the flowers and exotic plants. There are splendid orchards of oranges, almonds, English walnuts, lemons, peaches, apricots, figs, apples, and olives, with grain and corn--in short, everything that grows in garden or field. The ranch is famous for its brandies and wines as well as fruits. We lunched at the East San Gabriel Hotel, a charming place with a peaceful view from the wide veranda of live-oaks, orchards, vineyards, and the noble Sierra Madre range. The Californians may be excused for using the term paradisiacal about such scenes. Flowers, flowers everywhere, color on color, and the song of the mocking-bird!

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