Monday, July 1, 2013

Mountain Fruit II: More Questions About the Machado Ranch

(See Part One for more on the Machado ranch.)

A couple days ago, I gave the capsule history of my great-grandparents' ranch above Hayward. There's three last points I want to mention, one railroad and fruit industry-related, and the other two just for my own curiosity.

  • First, where did Joe Machado sell his apricots?
  • Second: does it look like there's any evidence that the orchard was run commercially after Joe died in 1939?
  • Third: where exactly was the farmhouse on the property?

Where did Joe Machado sell his apricots? When asked about the fruit buyers, Carl Machado just remembers the buyers were big from big companies.

Interviewer: After the buyers bought them, would he come and pick them up, or did you take them to his warehouse?
Carl: We'd take them down to… I don't know where it was now, maybe the depot, ship them out.
Interviewer: And you'd take them there.
Carl: Yeah, we'd have to sack them up, buy sacks, burlap sacks, and sew 'em all up nicely and take them down to… the buyer, the warehouse, wherever it was. We had a team of horses at that time, and the last few years we had a team of horses bring them down in the wagon.

Now, the uncertainty about where the fruit went intrigued me. In San Jose, you couldn't throw a brick without hitting a dried fruit packer, so it wasn't hard to haul a wagonload of dried fruit a short distance to San Jose, or Campbell, or Los Gatos to the packer of your choice. The San Jose phone book, after all, had a separate section just for dried fruit packers. I'd also seen a comment about how the packers tried to keep receiving stations close to the farms so they were within a short wagon ride from the orchards.

Hayward didn't appear to have any dried fruit packing houses, and so when Carl mentioned hauling the fruit down to the depot, I imagined that perhaps they had to pay to ship the fruit to San Jose to one of the large buyers; taking the horse and wagon to San Leandro, Oakland, or San Jose would have been unbearable. We also know the fruit wasn't staying locally; the processors nearby were all canners, and we know Joe was drying his fruit.

I did a bit more searching, and found out there were two other ways that Hayward area farmers could get their crops to the packers.

First, there might not have been dried fruit packers in Hayward, but there was at least one in Niles, several miles away. An 1893 California Department of Horticulture report names the local farmer's cooperatives, and notes the existence of the "Niles Cooperative Fruit Association" at that time, with no co-ops further north. A August 23, 1913 California Fruit Grower magazine mentions that Ellsworth Packing in Niles had just shipped a carload of apricots to Hamburg, Germany, so perhaps some of Joe's apricots were in that boxcar. Ellsworth looks like they got swallowed up by the Schuckl cannery folks, for a 1918 Western Canner and Packer notes that Schuckl was leasing the Ellworth Packing Company's plant for use as a receiving station for California Prune and Apricot Growers (Sunsweet). Sunsweet's presence implies there may have been some Sunsweet growers in the Hayward area.

The other possibility is that the packers didn't have a permanent place, but did hang around Hayward when the fruit was coming in. Fremont's Tri-City Voice noted a 1891 newspaper article that explained:

Harvested fruit had to be marketed and shipped, so shipping depots were opened at the railroad station during the season by San Francisco firms. Ellsworth and Co. were the big shippers and handled most of the cherries.

Packers' representatives at Wrights station, 1893. From History Los Gatos.

If the California Packing Corporation or Rosenberg Brothers had bought fruit from farmers in the area, they may have just sent an agent out to the railroad depot where he could inspect and weigh the incoming fruit, and pay the farmer while shipping a carload back to the main warehouse. The well-known shot of boxcars on the siding at Wrights siding, each branded with the name of a separate packer, may have been displaying the temporary presence of each of the packers.

Was the orchard run commercially after Joe's death? All the stories I heard in childhood about the ranch made it sound like the orchard was in business right up until the suburbs intruded. I'd heard stories about how the trees were old, and keeping the orchard running would have meant replacing the trees, and I'd assumed that there had been serious thought of replacing the trees. I'd also heard plenty of stories about apricots on the ground, and assumed those were the ones that fell off before or after the harvest. However, Carl stated that they'd continued drying fruit for only a few years after Joe's death in 1939, but the kids lost interest in the work, and Carl didn't have the energy on his own to keep the business running.

Time lapse of changes on ranch in 1946, 1958, 1968, and 1979.
I asked family about this: did anyone remember the orchard actually running? All the stories I got back were that the trees were still there, but no one remembered commercial activity, just family and neighbors grabbing the occasional bucket of fruit.

Luckily, I do have a source to help get the truth: old aerial photos. Historic Aerials has photos of the ranch every ten years from around 1946. Looking at these (see the time-lapse photos to the right), I can see that the orchards were in good shape in 1946, but the trees disappeared or shrank by 1958, and many trees were gone completely by 1968, the year the orchard was sold for development. The last photo from 1979, ten years after the sale, shows nearly no trees remaining from the orchard. It sure looks like the ranch wasn't being run commercially by the 1950's. Our ranch wasn't unique; all the other orchards in the neighborhood disappeared at about the same rate. Dry-farming orchards in the East Bay Hills doesn't appear to have been a profitable post-war activity.

Where was the farmhouse?The only two photos I have of the house up at the ranch were the two in the last article, and there aren't many cues to figure out which way the photo was being taken. I always assumed the farmhouse was on the south end of the property, furthest from the road.

1946 aerial photo of ranch, with landmarks marked.

The aerial photos show I had that wrong - the farmhouse was on the west side of the property, shaded by eucalyptus lining the western end. This probably was a good arrangement in pre-air-conditioning days, with the farmhouse protected both from the hot afternoon sun and the winter winds. You can also see the dirt road winding up the hill from D Street / Quarry Road. The builders did a bunch of grading when they put the houses in; Google's satellite view shows large hillsides rising behind the homes on the west side of the property, so the correct location of my great-grandparents' farmhouse would be at about roof level of some of the houses halfway down the street.

Time to show the aerial photos to family, and see what memories they spur.

[Wrights Station photo from History Los Gatos. Aerial photos from Historic Aerials; captions are my own.]

1 comment:

  1. Hayward wasn't completely ignored by the various organizations; the March 26, 1900 San Jose Evening News gives a one-line news item that "Haywards fruit growers have formed a branch of the California Cured Fruit Association."