Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Henderson Luelling - Father of the Pacific Fruit Industry; Founder of Fruitvale

[Luelling gravestone photo by Michael Colbruno]

Plot 10

Henderson Luelling (1810-1879) was a pioneering nurseryman who introduced varietal fruit to the Willamette Valley in Oregon and later to California. In 1847, Luelling, his wife, and eight children came west on the Oregon Trail, bringing a wagon loaded with an assortment of 50 or 60 varieties of apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, quince, black walnuts, hickory nuts, gooseberries, currants, and grapes. All told, the wagon had about 700 young plants, which he loaded into two long, narrow boxes in his wagon that were filled with charcoal, manure, and soil. He assiduously cared for them every day during the long journey, prompting his daughter to exclaim that he cared more about the trees than his family.

In spite of everyone’s advice that he would never get them across the Plains, Luelling got the plants and trees to Oregon, where he took them out of their boxes, wrapped them carefully, and took them to the Columbia River to start a nursery. Ultimately Luelling’s fruit trees became the parent stock of most of the orchards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Settling in Milwaukie, Oregon, Luelling started a nursery with his son-in-law, William Meek. He planted his "traveling orchard," and began grafting trees. By 1853, he had 100,000 trees for sale, selling them for $1 to $1.50 each. By bringing the finest varieties of fruit to Oregon, Luelling greatly advanced horticulture on the west coast.

In 1853, taking advantage of the Gold Rush, Lewelling sold his share of the business to Meek, moved to California, established a nursery and founded the community of Fruitvale in Oakland. Today, Lewelling is known as the Father of the Pacific Fruit Industry. The fruit industry ended up bringing greater wealth to the State of California than all of the gold ever produced there.

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