Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Apple Industry

There are still a few commercial apple orchards in the Ozarks. For instance, I know that there are at least one or two such orchards in southwest Missouri near Marionville. But these are not large orchards, and most of what they produce is sold locally. The apple industry in the Ozarks is "small potatoes," or should I say "small apples," compared to what it used to be in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
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.


Blogger mahasiswa teladan said...

hi..Im college student, thanks for sharing :)

November 18, 2013 at 7:42 PM  
Anonymous Bob Banks said...

As early as 1870, long before the railroad, apples were being shipped from Barry County to Texas by wagon. By 1884 the Cassville Fruit and Evaporating company was shipping dried apples to St. Louis in 10,000 pound lots.

Someday I'd like to hear what you've found about the game industry (quail, prairie chicken, etc.). In 1877, the Neosho Times reported that Pierce City had shipped 100,000 pounds of game to New York in a single week, "not counting rabbits."

Enjoy your blog.

November 22, 2013 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Thanks, Bob, for your comments and additional info. I knew that the apple industry predated the railroad, but I guess I didn't realize the extent of it in the early years. At any rate, the peak did not come until after the railroad.

November 23, 2013 at 9:14 AM  

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