|Prune orchards were first planted about 1890
in the hills south of Salem in the Liberty, Sunnyside and Rosedale
areas. Many of these orchards were bought and developed by the
Oregon Land Company before 1900. The trees were planted so that
horses, and tractors (after about 1920) could be used to cultivate
and plow between them. Efforts were made to mulch and hold in
the moisture because there was no irrigation at the time.
The prunes were harvested in early September by migrating
pickers who lived in one-room shacks that the orchardists
built for them. After being gathered from the ground into
buckets, the prunes were boxed up and taken to the dryers
to be washed and stacked in trays for drying.
The prune drier closest to downtown Salem was located near
South Commercial in the Candalaria area, where the Falk's
had a prune orchard. Another orchard and drier was near 12th
and Sunnyside, near the Hilfiker's orchard. Between 1905 and
1930, nearly seventy driers could be found within a radius
of about 2 1/2 miles from Liberty and Reese Hill Road.
The driers were large barn-like structures with furnaces,
frequently from the Rosebraugh Foundry in Salem, used to dry
the fruit by heat. Many of the driers were near springs; otherwise
a 30 to 50-foot-deep well had to be dug for water, and a windmill,
gas engine or hand power used to pump it. Transportation only
ran to Salem Heights at the time, and because the buildings
beyond that were so "strung out," it was called
Salem's involvement with prunes was chiefly with Italian,
or "purple plum," prunes. In the depression of the
1930's, canned prunes were the cheapest fruit one could buy,
but in later years the market swung to pears and peaches,
and fewer prunes were canned. After 1982, housing developments
took over most of the land formerly used for prune orchards.
Written by Joan Marie "Toni" Meyering
Edited by Katherine Wallig
Cammack, Forest. "Prune Industry West Coast, USA,
County History, School Days II, Vol. 14 ( Marion County
Historical Society, 1983), pp. 10-26.