Part of the American History & Genealogy Project


 Beets, Cotton and Fruit

Sugar Beet

The production of the Sicilian Boot, and the manufacture of sugar from it, has progressed favorably during the past four years. In 1870 the California Beet Sugar Company commenced operations at Alvarado, Alameda County, where several hundred acres were planted, and a sugar mill of fifty tons capacity per day was erected. This mill continued work with some profit for three years, when, for reasons of cheaper land and cheaper fuel, the machinery and field of operations of the company were removed to Soquel, in Santa Cruz County. At Alvarado the land suitable for the sugar beet was valued at $200 per acre, and rental at the rate of $20 per acre was paid. At Soquel land is rented at from $4 to $5 per acre. The annual cost of fuel at Alvarado was $30,000, and more than half that expense will be saved in the better timbered region of Santa Cruz. The company purchases beets at $$3.50 per ton, an aero producing about twenty tons; eight to nine per cent, being sugar. Several hundred acres have been planted in sugar beets at Soquel, sufficient to keep the mill running at its full capacity from the time of the ripening of the beets, in August and September, as long as they can be preserved in good condition, generally until April following. The results for the year 1874 are not yet ascertained, but are reported as very promising. The proprietors of this enterprise were Messrs. Bonestee & Otto, who had experience in Europe, and were successful in establishing boot sugar manufacture in Wisconsin, before coming to California.

At Sacramento were made the first attempts in this branch of culture and manufacture, and for obtaining information upon the subject, the enterprising founders of the company dispatched a person to Europe, where he, for several seasons, observed the processes at the farms and sugaries. Notwithstanding these intelligent precautions, the establishing of the Sacramento sugary was accompanied by many reverses and disappointments. In 1878-4 complete success was reported. The sugary has a capacity of working 80 tons of beets per day, and a farm is planted of 750 acres, which produces from five to twenty tons per acre, y eliding an excess of 10 per cent, of sugar at the factory. At the Sacramento works operations commenced early in August, being a full month earlier than boots are in condition in other counties, or even in the cool climate of the bay and coast counties of this State. The sugary is run day and night during the season, thirty men, mostly Chinese, being engaged on a shift of twelve hours each. The favorable results from these enterprises are most encouraging. They have demonstrated that California can produce sugar for consumption and for export. The present establishments are capable of producing from 4,000,000 to 6,000,000 pounds annually, but as from 40,000,000 to 50,000,000 pounds are imported, there is room for more.


As with nearly every vegetable production in which California now claims superiority, 30 with tobacco, the fact of their adaptation to the soil and climate was only ascertained by trial and experiment. Many experiments in tobacco cultivation were made, and single stalks and beds were seen growing luxuriantly in different parts of the State as a rare plant, but its curing for the uses for which it is prized was deemed impracticable, but for reasons few could tell. Recently a process has been discovered and patented by Mr. J. D. Culp, of curing the weed, and with the aid of this it is now believed that California tobacco will surpass in excellence that produced in any other section of the Union, and equaling the renowned products of Cuba. This discovery has given a great incentive to the culture, and from the small experimental fields of a few years since there are now farms of hundreds of acres growing tobacco, the aggregate, in 1874, being, estimated at 1,400 acres, chiefly in Santa Clara County, of which about one-third was of the Cuban variety. The successes have been so very great that the number of acres will be largely increased. The yield of the Cuban, or Havana tobacco is at the rate of about 1,200 pounds per acre, worth fifty cents per pound, or returning $600 gross per acre. The ordinary tobacco, however, brings a less price, but it is claimed that even this will return a profit of $200 per acre. The patentees of the curing process exact a royalty of twenty per cent, upon the gross crop of all those who arrange with them to adopt it.


Several of the staples of other States are contending for the first rank in this. Experiments have proven that "King Cotton" can flourish well on California soil, and its cultivation is advocated as far more profitable than the production of wheat. The most extensive experiments have been made by Colonel J. M. Strong, in Merced County, where one and a half bales were grown per acre, of better quality than is usually grown in the Southern States, and with less labor. One bale per acre is a large return in the Cotton States, and there the field must be plowed and hoed four times in the season; but the cotton grown on the Merced required hoeing but once. In the South, it is damaged and stained by the summer rains, and sometimes killed by frost, neither of which are to harm it in California. The cost of production in the most favored locality of the South is twelve coals per pound, while in California it is but eight cents. Such was the report of Colonel Strong in 1870, although the newspapers in the localities where cotton is most cultivated give the product at about 300 pounds per acre. The principal cotton fields are in Merced and Fresno counties, and it is also cultivated successfully in Colusa, Amador, Placer and other sections. In 1874 about 1,000 acres were planted in Fresno, and about the same in Merced, with an expected total product of 600,000 pounds of cotton, worth twenty cents per pound, the crop being reported as excellent. Such an amount will appear quite largely in the agricultural statistics, and will draw general attention to the subject. There are millions of acres of California soil adapted to the growth of cotton equally as well as the locality in Merced or Fresno counties, where the experiments have been made with such good results. This branch of agriculture opens another grand resource of the State awaiting development. The unrivalled water-powers afforded by the mountain torrents which pour into the valley from the high Sierra invite the manufacturer to apply them, and at no distant day we may expect to see near the fields where the cotton is produced the mills which prepare the fiber for market.


The capacity of California for the production of fruit is practically unlimited. The climate of lovely Los Angeles, where the grape, fig, orange, lemon, pomegranate and other tropical fruits grow to perfection in great fields and orchards, is the same as in the great valley of the Sacramento and other sheltered localities in the northern part of the State. The orange may be taken as an extreme proof of both capacity of soil and of climate, it requiring the one rich and the other temperate and free from severe frosts. Its successful cultivation is more satisfactory proof than the most careful register of the thermometer, and is comprehended by the educated as well as by the uneducated. This noble fruit of the most beautiful tree known grows to perfection wherever planted, in the valleys of the Coast Range, throughout the Sacramento Valley, and in the foot-hills of the Sierra Nevada. Early in the decade of '50, a gentleman at Bidwell's Bar, a mining town of Butte County, planted an orange seed as an experiment. From it a tree grew, which, to the surprise of all, flourished, and within ten years after became a source of revenue to its thoughtful and careful owner. This town is in the foot-hills of the Sierra Nevada, and in latitude 39° 30'. Farther north, in the Sacramento Valley, also in Napa and Sonoma, oranges are grown, and always in the open air. In the gardens of Marysville, Sacramento, Stockton, Folsom and other cities, is seen this highly ornamental tree, with its dark green foliage, from which peers in beautiful contrast the golden fruit, most attractive to the eye and profitable to the possessor. There is no limit to the production of this desirable fruit, and the great amount consumed, not only where raised, but throughout the United States, promises a market as extensive as our capacity to produce. The oranges of Los Angeles, for several seasons have found a ready market in San Francisco, and are so superior to those from the Pacific Islands that the latter only find purchasers at reduced rates. A single tree, eighty years old, in Los Angeles County, has produced in a single year upward of $1,000 worth of oranges. The Pacific Railroad opens an unlimited market for this fruit, which can be safely transported, and invites the farmer or horticulturist to engage in its production. It may be said that the soil and climate in which oranges grow to such perfection as in California are capable of producing anything. The pears of California have also attained a wide celebrity, and are, with other perishable fruits, exported largely to the states of the east. By some it is asserted that apples and peaches, although beautiful to the eye, are devoid of the flavor of those of choice localities in the east, but this is contradicted by experienced pomologists who have made careful tests. With choice selections and careful culture all fruits in this state are as superior in quality to those of other sections of the Union as they are in size and appearance. There is scarcely a limit to the range of varieties that may be successfully grown, even many of the fruits of the extreme tropics, as bananas, are growing in Fresno, and coconut trees of three and four years growth flourish at San Jose and in the Golden Gate Park at San Francisco. The delicious strawberry is found in the markets at almost any season of the year, although in the spring months the yield is most prolific. Every berry, from bush or vine, known in horticulture, here finds its home, and improves in its quality. To give the list, statistics of production, and description of varieties, would fill a volume. Grapes enter largest in the arrays of figures, and of this class the product of California equals, if it does not surpass, that of any other section of the globe.

The disposal of the vast quantities of fruit produced is an important problem, and the doubt of its favorable solution has retarded the progress and care of culture. The transcontinental railroad affords the opportunity to send to the east that which is grown convenient to the line, and a profitable business has arisen. Cars are prepared for the purpose, and a system for packing and care adopted, by which the fruit is retained in good condition. The cost of transit to New York is very great, being about 81,200 to New York for a single car load, consisting of from 3.50 to 400 boxes of fruit. The many carloads going eastward during the season indicate that the profits are encouraging.

Another means of disposing of the fruit is in drying; and for this, processes have been invented by Messrs. Alden, Cassidy and others, which desiccates it in a few hours fit for packing for commerce. By means of an endless chain of light shelves, ascending through a column of heated air, the fruit is dried in superior condition, retaining virtues and a freshness that are destroyed by the time and many mishaps of the old customs. At the Fairs of 1874 raisins, prunes, apples, currants, potatoes, pears and many other articles prepared by the Alden process were exhibited, which appeared superior to anything heretofore shown, and demonstrated the practicability of thus preserving and rendering marketable our perishable products. An extensive and exceedingly profitable field is thus opened for California fruits. At present large quantities of raisins and dried prunes are imported from Europe, which may now be supplied by home production, and we may also supply in great part the entire Union. Grapes or plums, selling at from one to four cents per pound, when converted into raisins or prunes, losing two-thirds of their weight, are raised in value from five to twenty fold.

California Gazetteer | AHGP California

Source: Pacific Coast Business Directory for 1876-78, Compiled by Henry G. Langley, San Francisco, 1875

Please Stop by Again!

Back to AHGP

Copyright August © 2011 - 2019 AHGP AHGP The American History and Genealogy Project.
Enjoy the work of our webmasters, provide a link, do not copy their work

This page was last updated  

Hosted Free