The Hood River Glacier, Hood River, OR., December 21, 1900, page 2
HOOD RIVER AS SEEN BY AN EDITOR
The Journal man accompanied by a very competent guide,
inspiration and critic had the pleasure of being whisked out to Hood River
one beautiful Indian summer morning just before the presidential election.
It is not possible to take a prettier short trip in the fall of the year
than a few hours ride from Salem to the center of the fruit growing region
of Wasco county, the morning ride down the Willamette, through French Prairie,
past the falls of the Willamette, formerly called Multnomah, through the
great rustling port of Portland, past the shipping of all nations, up the
mighty Columbia, with its rocks and cascades in profusion enough to almost
call it a garden of the gods, until coming to our destination.
Hood River is perched on the shoulder of the mountain that is formed at the junction of the snowy, leaping river flowing directly from Oregon's most majestic snow peak. At first you see but a row of store buildings and warehouses - a few cosy hotels and saloons that look as if they were struggling for an existence. After lunch a walk up the terraced streets revealing a charming residence portion, with plenty of churches and school buildings, capped with a highschool, and on top of the mountain spreading orchards and residences in all directions. Most magnificent in effect of all on the townsite are the groups of gigantic oak trees that we have nowhere seen equaled for beauty.
As we turned to go down into the city again a panorama was spread out before our eyes to the north revealing the grand outlines of Mt. Adams, the winding canyon of the White Salmon, and in the depths at our feet the deep blue mirror of the Columbia, plowed by steamers going up and down the river. A grove of towering firs and great pines hide the town below. At our back was the spreading riches of the high bench land planted for miles with orchards and berry patches, interspersed with cosy suburban farm homes, water running by the road side and ready to having its fertilizing flow directed into every field. The roads were excellent of smooth, sandy gravel and wide enough for several fast teams to trot alongside, clattering merrily homeward from the little city at the foot of the mountain.
We next gave our attention to the annual fruit fair, the secretary being a former Iowa friend whose urgent invitation had persuaded us to visit this little paradise that had so many revelations of beauty and resources in store. A pavilion about 200 feet long was filled on both sides and with tiers of fruit on display through the middle. The aisles were crowded with hundreds of farmers and orchardists and townspeople and nearly everybody seemed to have something on exhibition, and the zeal and animation on the faces of all plainly told the story of great local pride in their industry and enterprise. Hardly anybody in the city but has a fruit tract in the country, and hardly anybody for ten miles in the country but feels he is wholly or in part a resident of Hood River. Nowhere have I felt the spirit of the united interest between city and country so strongly present as in this little valley and its commercial and banking city. Hood River is like the bottom of the pocket of a big, healthy, prosperous rancher, where the results of his labors are jingling in a most concrete form.
One cannot enumerate in a short newspaper article all the show of fruit displayed under even this small canvas pavilion. The apples predominated overall, as Oregon seems to be the home of the apple. But there were grand displays of peaches, pears, quinces and other fruits. The wonderful fact about this industry, is that in ten years what was a semi-wilderness in the heart of the mountains has been brought to a high state of productivity, and there are thousands of acres in smiling orchards, bearing wealth and producing happiness, where nature gave no sign that she intended these semi-tropical fruits to grow. Only last season 37,000 crates of fresh strawberries were shipped from here to the markets of the large cities, and Hood River strawberries are known from New Orleans and to Manitoba and throughout the Rocky mountain region as the best berry the world produces.
I asked thousands of questions of the fruit growers here and it would take a book to print their answers and experiences. But one fact shown fourth and that was with the climate, soil, mountain air and enterprise, coupled with transportation facilities, they had a banana and were aware of it. I will tell a few stories of yield: Three acres of Baldwins produced 1000 boxes. A six year old orchard yielded 200 boxes per acre of Newtons and Ben Davis. A ten year old orchard this year brought its owner 2,400 boxes. A five acre crop on the trees, brought its owner $650 this fall and he had nearly $100 worth of leavings not considered good enough for shippers. Hon. E.L. Smith's orchard has paid expenses ever since it was six years old and Mr. Smith is too modest a man and too good a politician to tell how much it has netted him. He is quietly putting all he can into apples.
But this is not all fairyland. There are some drawbacks. It takes some years to get an orchard into bearing. In the meantime strawberries and small fruits must be pushed to make a living. But they are a sure thing. Then there are snow falls and some years ago a freeze that took nearly half of some orchards. But the valley is not one-tenth developed. There are at least 50,000 acres that can be made into orchards of the greatest commercial value. The West Side only is supplied with irrigation. The East Side will be in the near future. These bench land that make orchards are 400 to 800 and 1200 feet altitude. Snows fall two to four feet deep and the Chinook winds come and lick them into slush. The higher lands are almost unexplored but enough is known to make it certain that they are the peach-lands. One day a railroad to Mount Hood will open a perfect wilderness of peach orchards to the markets of the world and such peaches as the world has not yet seen, and in the presence of what seems so-called California fruit will take off its hat and blush with shame.
We closed the trip to Hood River with a drive up the river, across the head of the valley and back through the orchard belt. We drove through miles of orchards the fruit whereof literally covered the ground and many of the trees covered it two and three deep. The more prolific varieties have to be propped and braced up and are reeling and struggling to carry their load of hundred-fold and intoxication. Look down the winrows of apples half a mile long and alternating red and gold. Here and there is an unfortunate tree broken down with its own overflow of wealth. In the pavilion I counted 83 varieties of named kinds of apples all displayed not on plates but in bushel boxes.
We thought we had seen some of the finest mountain scenery in the west. We had crossed on nearly all the trans-continental routes, from the Canadian Pacific through the awe-inspiring Selkirks to the wonderful scenery of the Rio Grande and royal canyons of the Colorado. But a half day drive up the east side of the Hood River canyon and back across down the west side reveals new wonders of nature and discounts any previous sight in the way of mountain scenery. We climb the toilsome promontory east of the town until the river is a thin blue thread in the vast depths below. A turn of the road brings us out on the edge of the mountain wall about 2000 feet above the city. In the foreground are miles upon miles of forest checkered with squares of orchard and neat residences glittering in the sunlight. The eye mounts terrace by terrace of evergreen verdure until it meets the skyline southwest where stands Mt. Hood, serene and yet unapproachable, mistress and queen of all the princesses of the air, rearing her head above all the wealth of nature spread at her feet, spreading her bridal trains of snowy garments in all directions. We had seen Hood from all directions, but we had never seen a snow mountain before. Never before had we stood at a point in a happy, smiling, fruitful valley completely surrounded by a rim of snow peaks, with Hood as sentinel to the south and Adams to the North -- a panorama restful yet of surpassing grandeur. Across the valley we penetrate masses of pine, fir and oak timber that is worth fortunes to the lumber companies and that will clear the land and make it ready for the yet greater harvests of wealth that will come from the orcharding as it is carried on here with a commercial scale and true western grit and enterprise. - E. HOFER, in The (Salem) Daily Journal.
© Jeffrey L. Elmer