Whirlwind Hill was once crowded with trees whose lavish spring blossoms ripened into round, bright fruit in late summer. The orchards that were already starting to diminish in the 1950’s are completely gone from the hill now, replaced by fields of hay, acres of new houses with long driveways and tidy lawns, and a winery and vineyard.

"Orchards in Spring," Carol Crump Bryner, ipad painting, 2013

“Orchards in Spring,” Carol Crump Bryner, ipad painting, 2013

For many years peaches brought work and cash to my ancestors. There were apple orchards on the farm for decades when, sometime after 1875, my great-grandfather, William Ellsworth Hall, introduced peaches. But by around 1920 my grandparents were concentrating on dairy cows and apples, and the peach trees were few.

In 1912 my great-grandmother still writes about selling peaches.

Wednesday, August 21, 1912 – “Another close day. Picking peaches. Sold twenty-four baskets for seventy cents a basket. Pretty good for the first.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Thursday, August 29, 1912 – “We have been very busy canning peaches besides our usual work. Canned eleven quarts. They look very nice.” – Lydia Jane Hall

By 1921, other farms on the hill had taken over the commercial selling of the crop.

Monday, August 29, 1921 – “A nice day, warmer. September days are coming. Apples and peaches are ripening fast. Large truck loads of peaches going past to the depot toward evening.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Saturday, September 10, 1921 – “Nice day and a busy one for all. Agnes has canned peaches pears & tomatoes. We have had all our peaches off the few trees that were left on the hill lot, which were very nice to eat and can.” – Lydia Jane Hall

For the past two years I’ve been slowly transcribing journals kept by my great-grandfather William. His journal entries tell me very little about him, and I’ve hesitated to try to sum up his life from sentences like this.

January 10, 1861 – “Went to New Haven with apples. Mother spent the evening at Widow L. Hall’s. Put up some cider in the evening.” – William E. Hall

January 11, 1861 – “Finish putting up cider.” Went to the mountain after wood in the afternoon.” – William E. Hall

But I learned more about him through a speech and poem he wrote to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Wallingford Grange. Paper-clipped to the speech was a letter of sympathy to my family from the Grange written after William’s death in 1920. In this letter, the writers call my great-grandfather “The Father of the Wallingford Grange.” This photo of him as a young man was taken before he and thirty-one other people founded the town Grange in 1885.

William Ellsworth Hall, around 1875

William Ellsworth Hall, around 1875

Granges were organized to bring farmers together. It was through the Grange that Wallingford became home to so many fruit orchards. When I buy peaches at the farmers’ markets here in the Pacific Northwest, or buy beets and carrots at the markets in Alaska, I feel the same spirit that must have driven the early farmers of Wallingford to respect the land and to work together as a community to bring their produce to market. In his speech to the Grange, William said:

“Our hills are covered with fruit trees. Wallingford has come to be recognized as a center for great peach orchards. There is no fairer sight than the hills covered with blossoms, no more earnest sight than the industry of gathering and sending to market the product of our labor. For years much of this land had gone to waste. It has been recognized as pasture or at least, barren hill. But now there are everywhere vineyards and orchards. Our Grange has done more than its share toward bringing this about. Because from the first the organization has aimed to support conservation of all natural resources…Every possible precaution for preserving the soil should be taken, and the fact that no one has a right to become robber of the soil should be taught in the home, the school, the church, and the Grange. For in this and all other things we say, ‘The greatest good to the greatest number.’ ” – William Ellsworth Hall

"Blueberries and Peaches," Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor and colored pencil, 1994

“Blueberries and Peaches,” Carol Crump Bryner, watercolor and colored pencil, 1994

On Monday:  The Porch


11 thoughts on “Peaches

  1. Michael Foster

    Great-grandfather William sounds like someone we could use running the Department of Agriculture. His passion for stewardship of the land and his understanding that all of our welfare depends on good husbandry of farm resources would be welcome. “The greatest good to the greatest number.” What a radical idea.

    What a glorious sight it must have been when the Hill was covered in blooming fruit trees! The few orchards that were left during my youth have mostly gone to upscale housing, a poor trade. I remember the fruit harvest as a very busy time for my mother who canned innumerable quarts of pears, peaches and apple sauce to savor during the winter. I don’t remember myself as being particularly helpful in the process but I did enough peeling, coring, sectioning and packing to be amazed now at her productivity. My father built shelves in the basement that gradually filled with jars of various colors and textures. During the winter, they would be opened with a reminder of the warmth and bounty of the last summer, and a promise of the next. No matter how many jars of apple sauce my mother produced, and she put up dozens of quarts each year, it never quite lasted until spring.

    1. Carol Post author

      And your mother was – and probably still is! – such a good cook. I imagine that her canned goods were beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.

  2. Margaret Norton Campion

    Well said, Mike.

    And … William’s (very handsome man, btw!) final line, “‘The greatest good to the greatest number,'” was an inspiration to read early this morning. We need more of that. Period.
    Again, thank you, Carol, for another wonderful post.

    1. Carol Post author

      Hi Margy. Our great-grandfather William was born in 1837. He was, indeed, a handsome man, and what I read about him from different things people wrote, also a cheerful man and a man who loved to sing.

      1. Margaret Norton Campion

        Oh! I love hearing this! “… a cheerful man [who] loved to sing” !!!
        Wonderful. I sure can see how Grammy and Uncle El came from that man.

  3. Katy Gilmore

    And I get a kick out of his journal – “just the facts ma’m!” I’ll be curious if you begin to get a feel for him as you transcribe all the diaries. Why do you think he kept them? The answer to that is always interesting, bet you have a theory. And it may have been simply for the record. Because that’s what folks do. I’m glad it is “putting up” season — it’s all freezing here, so much easier than preserves or jam, equally welcome in the winter. Thanks for these posts reminding us of summer’s joys.

    1. Carol Post author

      I think you’re right about the journals – because it’s what folks do. His father also kept journals, or at least he kept the one that I have, and he was pretty much fact-oriented just like his son. But my own grandfather, as far as I know, never wrote much of anything down. I hope I can finish transcribing all of William’s journals by the time I’m done with the blog.

  4. Karen Dederick Kowalski

    I too, fondly remember the joy in opening up the jars of canned fruit that my mother would produce each year. The fragrance and flavor was just wonderful. It has been many years since I have done any canning, and I doubt that I will ever again, except for a few jars of jams once in awhile.

  5. Sue Foster

    I love peaches! I don’t remember many fruit trees on Whirlwind but I do remember going to Young’s orchard and buying peaches and apples. And just like Mike, I have many good memories of my mother putting up many quarts of peaches and applesauce – something that I started doing just a few years ago. There is nothing better than having a taste of summer in the middle of a cold winter! Thanks for the good memories – and the wonderful journal entries!


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