The Vagabond – Captain Elliott’s short-lived peach orchard

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By Danny Crownover

The largest peach orchard ever planted in Etowah County was located on the side of the mountain overlooking what later became the Gadsden Country Club.
The orchard (pictured near right) was owned by Captain J.M. Elliott, Jr., who in 1905 planted 74,000 trees. The Elliott Fruit Company was organized to promote and carry out the project.
Charles W. Ewing, who owned 17,000 peach trees and 5,000 apple trees at Mountainboro, visited the Elliott Orchard in April of 1905. He predicted the orchard would produce 50 carloads of peaches that season.
Elliott’s company also owned 20,000 peach-bearing trees on the M.L. McDonald farm located several miles south of the country club property, making a total of 94,000 trees in all.
During that time, most fruit growers in the south were operating independently and were therefore not organized to protect their interests. To wit, they were at the mercy of commission men in the markets and very frequently they did not receive enough cash on a carload of peaches to pay the freight.
Those local growers did not produce quantities that would attract buyers to the fields, and as a result, many were forced to go out of business, even to the point of cutting down their orchards. Several large orchards around Menlo, Ga., were destroyed for that very reason, and the Elliott Orchards eventually went the same way. His orchards were located several miles from a railroad, and the haulage by wagons to shipping points ate into any possible profits.
Every fruit-producing center in the United States had a similar experience, including those in California and Florida. Many survived through organization and cooperation, which eliminated any uncertainty about markets and the methods of commission men.
Captain Elliott (pictured above right) called his peaches “Iron Tonis,” a brand that attracted little attention in other sections. He claimed that the iron in the soil gave the fruit a peculiar flavor and an attractive color.
The Elliott Orchard began to fade out just before the country club bought its property. Many of Elliott’s trees were cut down and many died out.
Contact The Vagabond at dkcrown@bellsouth.net.

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