History of Idaho Fruit Industry and the Idaho State Horticultural Society and Constitution

The Idaho fruit industry has a relatively long history.  Although most of today’s fruit-producing areas are located in the south western counties of Idaho, Lewiston area was the first location that Idaho fruit industry started to form.  Detailed history of fruit production and Idaho State Horticultural Society has been written by Mr. Ron Marlow of Payette Idaho and are using most of his article for this portion of our website.  

First records of fruit growing in the Pacific Northwest were recorded at Vancouver, Washington in 1826. The Hudson's Bay Company supplied bud stocks that produced orchards. Rev. H. H. Spalding planted apple seeds, in 1837, at Lapwai, Idaho which grew into trees that bore fruit for many years. His irrigation system watered these trees as well as his potato patch.

Hawley's 1899 "History of Idaho" notes that W. Mulkey, of Lewiston, set out the first commercial orchard at 15 acres, in 1863, which produced apples and pears. These crops were sold in nearby mining camps. Soon Lewiston and Clarkston had about 6000 acres of cherries, apples, pears, peaches, prunes and almonds. The Lewiston area became known as Lewiston Orchards.
Prior to 1900 most of the Idaho's fruit was raised in Latah County with apples and prunes the common crops. With the population shift to Southern Idaho the fruit orchards increased also. In the Snake River Canyon, near Twin Falls, Ira Burton Perrine planted apples, peaches, prunes and apricots. They were soon known all over the world for the excellence. East of St. Anthony, in Eastern Idaho, big orchards were set out but early frosts took their toll.
 Idaho's fruit grew in popularity in eastern markets but was a long way from population centers. Shipping costs took a large portion of the profits.

 In January 1895, an Idaho State Horticultural Society was formed to promote horticultural interest in Idaho. One of their first priorities was to get a law passed requiring inspection of fruit trees and a fine for people selling diseased fruit or trees. John Toole was elected the first president. A State Board of Horticultural Inspection was created by the State Legislature with W. A. Coughanour, of Payette, as president.

The state was divided into seven horticultural districts. Its aim was to inspect orchards and fruit shipments for insects and disease and determine away of combating them. All board members served without pay except the secretary whose salary was fixed by law at $250 a year.

In 1895 agricultural prices were low, with a box for apples going for seventy-five cents wheat was sixty-five cents a bushel, pork sold for twelve cents a pound and cherries sold for five to ten cents a pound. The pickers were getting about three fourths of a cent per pound for picking and on an average day a man could earn about one dollar in wages.

 From the very beginning different ideas were tried as to the Boards of Inspection and State Agricultural Inspection. Politics played a big role in changing horticultural laws and also personnel.

 Inspections were soon required for milk and milk products along with honey and bees. This created confusion and much irritation.

 In later years the Idaho Horticultural Society separated from the Horticultural Board and an Idaho State Department of Agricultural was established.

 One of the most notable orchards in the Boise Valley was owned by Tom Davis. He owned a 500 acre farm with 40 acres in the valley along with another 25 acres in the Crane Gulch area where he successfully raised apples, pears, peaches, plums and blackberries. The balance of his farm was committed to other cultivated crops.

 In a good year, when the grasshoppers weren't too much of the menace and the men he employed to shake the insects from the trees in the late afternoon could keep the hoppers controlled, Davis would profit more than $10,000 from his apple and cider mill operations alone.

 His success and farming was so notable bit in later years Julia Davis Park in Boise was named in honor of his wife.

 In the 1870s, John Krall owned 1000 acres on the east side of Boise with 60 acres planted in fruit trees. Warm water wells were developed to irrigate his orchards of fruit and almond trees. Nearby mining camps were supplied with fresh fruit from his orchards. Now a street in Boise bears his name.
Orchards were also planted at Council, Mesa, Indian Valley and Weiser. Packing plants were constructed along the railways to handle the fruit.

 The Payette Valley saw its first commercial orchard at New Plymouth in 1897. Dr. C. M. McBride planted fruit trees on his 40 acre farm about one half mile south of the townsite. With the completion of irrigation canals in the area many other orchards pursuant planted.

 It wasn't long before the Fruitland area had about 800 acres of apples and 100 acres of prunes. They were shipped out on the Payette Valley Railroad which was nicknamed "The Punkin' Vine."

 The Idaho Orchards Company, in Emmett, had J. R. Field as general manager. Apples and pears were raised on the bench above Emmett while cherries and apricots were raised on the slope. A cannery was built which produced about 500 cases of fruit and vegetables per day. Some investors in the company realized profits while others went broke due to the instability of the market. Early production costs were high due to insect infestation, mainly the coddling moth, the type of shipping containers required, transportation and also weather problems. The south slopes of the valley were dotted with cherry orchards making this Idaho's most important cherry growing region.

 John Steel cleared 80 acres of sagebrush near Parma in about 1897 and planted 40 acres of prunes. By 1900 he had orchards of apples and pears in what is called the Roswell Fruit Tract along the Snake River. Soon he became the area's largest fruit shipper. He also experimented with orchards of cherry, berry and grape varieties. His wife, Ethel, was a staunch supporter of the University of Idaho. A women's residence hall is named in her honor.
The dominant fruits, near Payette, were apples and prunes. O. E. Bassen, Wes Jimmerson, C. F. Brodersen, H. Dugeon, the Shurtleff family, Nick Kossen, John Cahill, N. A. Jacobsen, Earl Parsons and William Holman had orchards, packing sheds as well as prune dryers.

N. A. Jacobsen brought Italian prune trees from his native Germany. In 1899 he shipped 25 carloads of fresh prunes to eastern markets. European immigrants were familiar with Italian prunes so a demand was created in eastern markets. Idaho soon lead the nation in prune production.
Improvements in varieties of apples, and more demand, saw the apple take lead in fruit production and consumption after 1900.

Symms Fruit Ranch, one of the largest fruit operations in the USA, was founded in 1914. This ranch  is located in Sunny Slope area, south of Caldwell, Idaho.

Henggeler Packing Company is another large fruit operations that is located in Fruitland Idaho.  This company produces a variety of decidious fruits, including high quality apples, plums, peaches and cherries and ship all around the world. 

Historical Notes: 

Prepared by Al Dimmick, President at the 114th Idaho State Horticultural Society Convension, November 24-25, 2008:

January 24, 1895, Boise, Idaho, 1st Annual meeting and official organization with Articles of Association.  In Article III ladies were exempt from dues.

September 18, 19, 1895, Payette, Idaho, Semi-Annual meeting.  “Owing to some misunderstanding regarding the use of the Hall, no sessions were held on Wednesday, the Hall being turned over to the Ladies Suffrage organization.”  Sorry, they did not retreat to the bar.  They were herded to the exhibition of fruits, vegetables, and grains.

Semi-Annual meetings were held around the State until the Ninth Annual Meeting held in Payette on January 19, 20, 21.  The last minutes of this meeting stated “In this session it was voted to incorporate and reorganize under the name of the Idaho State Horticultural Association, and so the records of the Idaho State Horticultural Society are closed and the Society goes out of existence under that name.  A. E. Gipson.”

The “Association” continued as a registered incorporated entity until 11/30/1948 when the annual filing was not made and the “Association” was dropped from the active State rolls.



IDaho State Horticultural Society Constitution


January 24, 1895 Idaho State Horticultural Society Constitution


Article I.  The association shall be known as the Idaho State Horticultural Society.


Article II.  The object of this association shall be the advancement of the science and art of horticulture.


Article III.  Its membership shall consist of annual members, paying a fee of $1 each annually, of life members, paying a few of $10, and of honorary members, who shall be persons only of distinguished merit in horticulture or its cognate branches, and shall be elected to membership by a vote of the society, provided, however, that ladies attending the meetings of the society shall be admitted to membership without fee and one duly accredited delegate from any district, county or local society, or fruit growers association shall be entitled to annual membership without payment of the usual fee.  All annual or semi-annual memberships shall expire with the close of the annual or semi-annual meeting succeeding their enrollment. 


Article IV.  Its officers shall consist of a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, who shall be elected by ballot at each annual meeting of the society, and shall hold their respective offices for the term of one year or until their successors shall be chosen.  They shall perform the duties usually devolving upon such officers, and shall be ex-officio members of the board of trustees, consisting of the above named officers, and three other members who shall be elected by ballot upon recommendations from the different districts at the annual meeting and hold their offices for three years from the date of their election, except as hereinafter provided.  The state is hereby divided into three districts and one of the a forenamed trustees shall be elected from each of the three districts, as follows:  The member elected from district No. 1, consisting of Kootenai, Shoshone, Latah, Nez Perce and Idaho counties, shall serve for one year.  The member elected from district No. 2, consisting of Washington, Boise, Canyon, Ada, Elmore, Owyhee and Cassia counties, shall serve for two years.  The member elected from district No. 3, consisting of Logan, Alturas, Custer, Lemhi, Fremont, Bingham, Bannock, Bear Lake and Oneida counties shall serve for three years.  At each annual meeting thereafter there shall be elected a member to succeed the one whose term expires at that time.  The Board of Trustees shall have power to fill any vacancy occurring in the offices provided for in this article of the constitution, and any officer to appointed shall hold his office until the next succeeding annual meeting or until his successor is chosen by the society.


Article V.  The society shall hold an annual meeting in the month of January and a semi-annual meeting during the growing season of each year, and on date as the society or the Board of Trustees may direct.


Article VI.  The secretary or the treasurer of this society shall authority to appoint a deputy for their respective offices, who may, under the direction of the principal, and in his name, perform any and all of the duties pertaining to said offices, said principals being responsible for the official acts of said deputies.


Article VII.  This constitution may be amended at any annual meeting of the society by a two-thirds vote of the members present.