There is a lot of speculation and conjecture about the Oregon Nursery Company and what the role of the company was to world wide fruit tree production. By about 1915 millions of fruit trees were in production in the fields emanating from the Townsite of Orenco. A Company town if ever there was one, Orenco was booming.
As a child my family bought the home and acreage of Fred and Alice Sargeant who lived at 22950 NW Dogwood Street in Orenco, Oregon. Fred was the Master Grafter who worked for the Oregon Nursery Company and he was quite an amazing person. At the time I was all of 8 and had no idea that this tall skinny rather gaunt but pleasant man of 87 had been the creator of many unique Fruit Varieties. In our 3 acres of orchards we had after the purchase were a myriad of hybrid fruits. Plums so big you could barely hold them in one hand. Pears that were crossed with a peach to create a soft and sweet texture and explosive flavor. The list went on and on and we rarely went hungry not to mention the brandy and wine Dad and Mom made out of these assets.
Fred’s work was sought out about 5 years after we moved in by a famous fruit tree expert who told me the man had created some of the best fruits in the world and was to be credited. He took cuttings away to the Bybee-Howell house on Sauvie’s Island where he was to have planted and reproduced them for future generations. We took for granted the trees and fruits Fred Sargeant had created. Among them were the Maynard Plum which was created by the legendary Luther Burbank and the Orenco Apple. The apple would prove to be the crowning achievement and was thought to be an apple for the ages. It was said of the Orenco Apple:
The Orenco apple is probably the company’s most famous product. The Orenco apple is a red apple, plump, crisp, and juicy with a small core. According to the company’s 1913 Descriptive Catalogue of Fruit and Ornamental Trees, the Orenco apple is “the ideal dessert apple.” The catalog claimed the Orenco was better than the McIntosh Red apple or Spitzenberg apple, two apples that were known for their quality. Today, the Orenco apple can still be found in some Pacific Northwest orchards and nurseries that specialize in classic apple varieties. Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Nursery_Company
There were many days we ate the Orenco Apple in those times. We pressed Cider a couple time and mostly just ate them. What we did not get the Deer and Stellar Jays did. They were so plentiful we let a lot of them go to waste.
These Days having long since left that Farm I long for an Orenco Apple and you best believe I am putting my hands on some one way or the other real soon. I have returned to the old property and while the Sargeant’s home still stands much of the fields and trees are gone. I am Happy to report however that part of the Sargeant’s Farm is now a walk-able neighborhood park. Call me sometime and we can go hunting apples and other Fruit there as some surely remain.
More stories of the people and town that was and I want to recognize Fred and Alice Sargeant for their role in the formation of the community and important fruit trees like these.