Horticulture.Literally, the word horticulture means the art of cultivating gardens. In its broader sense it includes the cultivation of all varieties of fruits, flowers, vegetables and nursery stock. Consequently horticulture embraces the divisions of pomology, or fruit culture; floriculture, or the raising of flowers and decorative plants; gardening, or the cultivation of vegetables; and nursery culture, or the cultivation of fruit-bearing plants and trees until they are ready for transplanting.
Before white men came to Kansas the Indians made use of the wild native fruits, gathering and drying for domestic purposes cherries, plums and grapes. Of these native fruits there are several varieties of plums, the wild plum or sloe being the most common. In the western part of the state, the sand-hill plum, a shrub rarely over six feet in height, grows in abundance upon the sand hills along the Arkansas and Smoky Hill rivers. The wild blackberry is found in the skirts of timber which border the streams and the northern dewberry grows in some localities. Grapes are common in the eastern part of the state and are found in many places on the sand hills in the central and western part of the state. The wild gooseberry is found in every part of Kansas, and in the western part of the state may be found the wild currant, of which there are three varieties. The wild strawberry is found in moist places and is sweeter than some of the cultivated species. A little known fruit, called the Juneberry, grows in rocky, hilly places. The persimmon, cherry and paw paw also grow wild.
The first orchard in the state was planted by Rev. Thomas Johnson at the Methodist Episocpal mission, near Shawneetown in 1837, when 12 acres were planted to fruit trees. The part played by the horticulturists in the early history of Kansas was unimportant, because of the great agitation which preceded and accompanied the birth of Kansas, and practically little fruit tree planting was done before the war except along the eastern border, where in the early '60s it was noticeable that scarcely a settler had neglected to plant and cultivate a small orchard, usually of peach trees, though some planted grape vines and berry bushes. Farther west the settlers planted orchards, but as they selected varieties of fruit that had flourished in the east, the result was that, owing to the difference in the soil, climate and altitude, most of these early orchards died. About this time the Kansas State Horticultural Society came forward and introduced varieties of peaches, pears, apples and small fruits which could successfully be propagated in Kansas. Following the influx of immigration at the close of the Civil war, came a greater interest in the subject of fruit growing, and it is safe to say that within five years after Kansas took the gold medal for the fruit displayed at Philadelphia, Pa., in 1869, over 1,000,000 fruit trees were planted in the state. By 1875 it was estimated that there were 2,500 different varieties of apples alone to be found in the orchards of Kansas.
In 1910 the vast acreage planted to apple trees in eastern and central Kansas was almost incredible to people of the eastern states, and a Kansas apple specialist has "grown more apples on trees of his own planting than any other man in the world."
One of the first commercial orchards was planted in the spring of 1876, in the southern part of Leavenworth county by Frederick Wellhouse, who became the largest apple grower in the world, having at one time 1,600 acres in orchards in Leavenworth, Miami and Osage counties, and was widely known as the "Apple King." He died on Jan. 10, 1911.
According to the report of the state horticultural society for 1909, there were in the State of Kansas 7,216,853 apple trees; 287,929 pear trees; 4,929,688 peach trees; 732,102 plum trees; 909,806 cherry trees; 16,715 quince trees; and 194,903 apricot trees. The estimated number of bushels of fruit grown in 1909 was 5,669,274 of apples; 82,929 of pears; 1,287,835 of peaches; 44,512 of plums; and 59,331 of cherries. Of small fruits there were 3,487 acres in strawberries; 1,626 acres in raspberries; 4,505 acres in blackberries; and 467 acres in gooseberries. There were 6,197 acres of land planted to vineyards, and 25,300 acres occupied by gardens. (See Entomological Commission.)Page 873-874 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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