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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


J. Noble Jones

The opening years of the twentieth century have given a very noticeable impetus to the desire for specialization, and this may be named as one of the attributes of the era through which we are passing. Nor is California less eager in its devotion to this progressive trait than are other commonwealths of the Union; in fact, in the onward march of progress her citizens have been foremost in reaching success through devotion to certain specialties. A marked attribute in the life of J. Noble Jones has been his intense faith in California’s future, and his earnest support of all movements for the state’s advancement. Especially identified with Sonoma county’s development, he is now giving his time and thought and means to the development of Orchard addition to Santa Rosa, a venture involving an enormous outlay, but promising excellent returns to its investors.

Some years ago Luther Burbank, the famous “wizard” in plant development, offered the following suggestion: “When you plant another tree, why not plant the walnut? Then, besides sentiment, shade and leaves, you may have a perennial supply of nuts, the improved kind, which furnish the most delicious and healthful food that has ever been known.” Mr. Jones is not only an admirer of the walnut tree and a lover of the nut itself, but in addition he has the utmost faith in the adaptability of Sonoma’s soil and climate to the profitable growing of this product. Faith took visible form in works, and he began the development of the Orchard addition, with the intention of selling the young walnut groves to small purchasers. Already a deep interest has been awakened in the project. Its feasibility recommends it to men of small means, who do not wish to give up their occupations for a time, yet desire in the future to remove to small farms which will afford them a means of livelihood.

Tradition tells us that the first walnuts were raised in Persia and shipped by merchants to Rome, where the people considered them a great delicacy. In 1769 the Franciscan monks planted walnut trees about their missions in California and thus was inaugurated an industry that has grown wonderfully from that day to the present. The state produced in 1907 almost sixteen million pounds of walnuts. During the year a few hundred thousand were raised in other states and thirty-two million pounds were imported, regardless of the fact that a tariff was paid on every pound. In 1902 statistics show that more than fourteen million pounds were imported and in 1906, almost twenty-five million pounds. The product in California during the year 1895 reached only four and one-half million pounds, but this increased every year and in 1908 twenty-two million pounds were produced. With this increased production there is an increased demand. It has come to be realized that as a food the walnut closely approaches perfection because it contains the three important food elements concentrated in large proportions. It is more than half fat, more than one quarter protein and contains about one-tenth carbohydrates, along with a little mineral matter. The fact that walnuts now form a large proportion of the diet of vegetarians is proof of the high value. The oil from the Franquette nut has valuable medicinal qualities, a discovery of modern times that gives promise of a larger demand for this variety.

The plan adopted by the owners of the Orchard addition is the one experience has proved to be the most practical. The land is planted with vigorous black walnut trees two years old, indigenous to the soil of the state, and scions of the Franquette variety are grafted to the stock. The Franquette is said to be more prolific, more hardy and more rapid in growth than the English walnut. It has never been attacked by disease and avoids the frost because it blooms a month later than many of the early varieties. The shell can be broken between the fingers, but is hard enough to ship in safety. The company is following the methods that have produces the best results on the Vrooman grove, adjacent to Orchard addition, where the Franquette has yielded splendid crops and has proved adapted to the climate and soil conditions of Santa Rosa. In past years growers did not know that varieties to plant nor how to plant and care for the trees. Thousands of dollars were lost because the walnut blossoms were not properly fertilized and because grafting was not managed with the necessary care. The Franquette has staminate and pistillate elements which bloom at almost the same time, ensuring fertilization of all blossoms upon every tree and in consequence a full crop of nuts every year.

After the planting of the trees the company cares for the trees for four years in the interest of the purchaser. The entire care of the young grove is under the experienced supervision of William Farrell, Jr., a man who has given his life to horticulture and walnut growing especially being raised in Santa Clara valley. The land is sold in tracts from one to ten acres at $500 per acre, with a discount of five per cent allowed for cash. A deposit of $10 per acre reserves a tract. When twenty-f9ve per cent of the purchase price has been paid the purchaser may remove to the property, but if he prefers to delay his removal the company will continue to take care of the trees, after the fourth year and market the crops for ten per cent of the net profits. The Franquette walnuts fall to the ground free of the hulls and the sun bleaches them, an advantage over many nuts that must be picked and husked by personal work. The three thrives in the climate of Santa Rosa, where the mean temperature of January is fifty-two degrees and of August sixty-seven degrees. The rainfall is sufficient so that irrigation is not necessary. The soil is the right quality and depth, an important consideration, for a rich soil is needed from twenty-five to thirty feet in depth, in which water does not gather and remain long. However, enough moisture is needed so that the tree will carry its foliage late in the fall, because a long growing season is necessary to the ripening of the nut. Walnut trees in shallow soils are not a satisfactory investment and in such locations the tree invariably begins to die back from the top.

Aside from pecuniary considerations few sights are more beautiful than a Franquette walnut grove. The trees are slender yet compact, rising from the loamy soil in a sturdy column of gray bark, and branching out into a cluster of many slender and graceful limbs. The foliage is delicate yet abundant and the entire aspect is pleasing to the eye. Walnuts attain great age, yet the tree shows no signs of a decreased productiveness. In the Naidar valley near Balaklava, in the Crimea, stands a walnut tree at least one thousand years old. It yields annually about eighty thousand nuts and is the joint property of five Tartar families, who share equally in its product. In the village of Beachemwell, Norfolk, there is a walnut tree ninety feet tall, thirty-two feet in circumference near the ground, several hundred years old and producing in one season fifty-four thousand nuts. The grafted trees will maintain an average growth of six feet in the first year, while the French or English seedlings would consume three years in making that growth.

The Orchard addition is near Santa Rosa, a city of twenty thousand inhabitants, with five banks, one high school, two daily papers, electricity, gas and free water, also an interurban electric railway. As the city increases in size and its limits are extended the value of the addition will be enhanced. It has the further advantage of being within six miles of Kenilworth, Altruria, Mark West, Fulton, Mount Olive, Molino, Sebastopol, Bellevue, Oak Grove and Yulupa. Nearness to various towns increases its market and shopping facilities, yet at the same time gives to the property owners all the delightful quiet of the country. In future years, it is the hope of the promoters of the plan, the addition will be the abode of hundreds of contended, prosperous and progressive people, whose identification with the walnut industry will be profitable to themselves and helpful to the permanent growth of this locality.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011