In 1890, Missouri produced 25,000,000 bushels of apples and was the leading apple producer in the U.S. Today, the state produces only about 1,000,000 bushels, which represents less than one half of one percent of total U.S. production. Much of the industry was centered in the southwest and south-central part of the state (i.e. the Ozarks).
The peak years in Arkansas came later. In 1919, when apple production in the state was at its zenith, Arkansas produced about 5,000,000 bushels, and the state's apple industry was centered in northwest Arkansas, particularly Benton and Washington counties. In 1900, 40,000 acres were devoted to apple orchards in Benton County alone. Compare that to the fact that today the total number of acres devoted to growing apples in the whole state of Missouri is only about 3,000.
The advent of the railroad in the late 1800s led to the boom in the apple industry in the Ozarks. On the other hand, there were a number of factors that led to its demise. Among them were drought, insects and disease, the mixing of seeds from different varieties, a growing reputation for shipping poor quality fruit, and the introduction of poor varieties, such as the Ben Davis.
Speaking of the Ben Davis, one of the curiosities left over from the boom days of the apple industry in the Ozarks is the small community of Bendavis, located on Highway 38 in Texas County, Missouri. It was platted about 1910 by James J. Burns, who hoped to build a town at the site, and he named it Ben Davis or Bendavis, because he planned to grow Ben Davis apples in his large orchards there. However, the town never amounted to more than a general store and a post office. Today, it is just a wide place in the road with a sign that says simply "Bendavis." Or at least the sign was still there the last time I was through there, which has been a number of years ago.