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Eden Valley Orchard History
Eden Valley Orchard is located a short distance south of the city of Medford, Oregon on a former donation land claim. The orchard was established between 1885 and 1898 by early fruit grower Joseph H. Stewart and expanded between 1899 and 1932 by Colonel Gordon Voorhies. This period encompassed the planting of the first Rogue River Valley commercial pear orchard on this land, the expansion of the orchard industry and the industry’s decline with the onset of the Great Depression.
Joseph H. Stewart, an experienced nurseryman and fruit dealer from Chicago, planted the orchard and then sold the area’s first commercial pears in 1890 by shipping railroad cars full of fruit to outside markets. His trees eventually provided budwood for many large orchards throughout the valley.
The original house on the 160 acre parcel was built in the 1860’s by Addison Ball and Martha Justus Ball. It is believed that Stewart moved his family here while constructing the larger home, completed prior to 1898. By 1896, the output from the acreage he had named Eden Valley Orchard was ninety-five carloads of pears and apples. Widely recognized as the “father of the fruit industry” in southern Oregon, Joseph Stewart had an extremely successful business. A prominent contemporary of Stewart’s remarked, “Every fruit tree in Rogue River Valley will be a monument to his memory”.
In 1899, at 65 years of age, Stewart sold his property to Gordon Voorhies of Portland, Oregon. Voorhies was born and raised in Kentucky, a graduate of the Military Academy at West Point, served in the US Infantry and Fourth Calvary, volunteered for the Spanish American War and later served in World War I as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Army. He married Helen Burrell, daughter of a prominent Portland merchant family and pioneer citizens, in 1893.
By 1906 the orchard industry was beginning to boom in southern Oregon. Local fruit set world records for quality and price received. Voorhies in parternship with his brother-in-law, Walter Frazar Burrell, acquired additional lands. In 1906, with trees flourishing and a packing house that employed people throughout the area, the orchard served as an example for the local newspaper:
Of the many orchards which grace this little valley, the largest is the Eden Valley Orchard, owned by Burrell Investment Company…..[It] furnishes to the smaller growers examples of the wisdom when he started Eden Valley Orchard, now look at the splendid success it has achieved and glancing at their own acres devoid of trees whisper disconsolately, “It might have been”. (Medford Mail, March 9, 1906:10)
In 1906, Voorhies’ hired builders to extensively remodel the former Joseph Stewart house. The commodius Voorhies dwelling was photographed, and featured along with other distinguished Rogue River Valley orchard homes, in illustrated promotional publications of 1909 and 1911. Again in 1920, Voorhies decided to remodel the home again using his youngest son, Charles Voorhies, who had studied at Harvard and was a devoted architecture student to take over the project.
In 1926, Voorhies, Leonard and Alfred Carpenter, Chandler Egan and Corning Kenly, established Southern Oregon Sales, a fruit cooperative in Medford. Southern Oregon Sales (SOS) helped members with processing, packing, storing and selling fruit. SOS has continued in successful operation to the present day.
The property remained in the Voorhies family until 1986 when it was sold to Edward Earnest, Medford orchardist and then sold again in 1999 to the long time orchard family
of Betty F. Root and her son, Tim Root, its present owners.
The property remains much as it did when Voorhies and his wife lived in the house. There also remains a few trees from the original Stewart planting. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 14, 2000. Click here to see the certification and pictures of the property prior to restoration.
||CLIFF CORDY PEAR HISTORY.PDF(21374.4KB)
This document was written in the 1960's by the Rogue Valley's long term Extension Agent, Clifford B. Cordy. This historical summary of events was given to the Root family who were one of the early pear orchard families in the region. Myron Root moved to Medford in 1908 and planted orchards. His two sons, Robert and Don Root continued farming and with others in the community started a processing facility called Sabroso Fruit Company.
||DECOSTE EVO ARTICLE.DOC(26.5KB)
Steven DeCoste, a free lance writer and historian has written two articles that were published in the Southern Oregon Historical Society's monthly magazine "Southern Oregon Heritage".