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Jul 08

Growing Apples in Kansas in the 1890s

Posted on July 8, 2021 at 12:45 PM by Bill Sowers


So just where was the world's largest apple orchard in the mid 1890s?... a pressing question that keeps many of you apple aficionados up a night for sure!

According to an article by Phil S. Creager, found in the "Ninth Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture For the Years 1893 and 1894" that apple farm was right here in the Sunflower State. I know it's debatable but it was in print in an official Kansas government publication so it has to be true!

Whether true or not you can read this interesting article about the Wellhouse Apple Orchard in northeast Kansas which flourished over 100 years ago in Leavenworth County and environs. 

The article begins with a statement dispelling any myth about Kansas not being a fruit producing state:

"'Kansas is no fruit country,' was the old cry of people, both in and out of the state. It was started before there had been tests to prove or disprove it, and has been kept up to a greater or less extent since orchards and vineyards and small fruit plantations have, by their bountiful crops, given it the lie direct. It is echoed even yet by the few uninformed individuals who are not aware of the fact that Kansas ships strawberries to Nebraska, Missouri, and Colorado; grapes to New Mexico and Arizona ; peaches (sometimes ) to the distilleries of St. Louis, St. Joseph, and Lincoln ; pears to the most oritioal and exacting of Eastern markets ; and apples by the car load to “ Ould England” and other European countries." [page 498]

The article includes the favorite varieties of apples grown in the orchards: Ben Davis, Gano, York Imperial and Cooper's Early White (which is the only variety that has not paid). There are also sections on yields and profits, where the crops have gone, the method of planting, caring for the trees, gathering and packing, and spraying.  

A nice read about an agricultural crop rarely considered when one thinks of Kansas.  You can find the article in the State Library of Kansas' KGI Online Library, clipped from the 1893/94 Biennial Report of the State Board of Agriculture.  It starts halfway down the first page you see:

[Apple graphic copied from Wikipedia]