A Rich History

A RICH HISORY 

Fruit orchards once featured prominently into the agricultural landscape of southwestern Colorado. Montezuma County is old orchard country. Many of these orchards still exist, primarily apples, though as remnants of themselves, quite often down to several trees 100-years-old or older growing in a fence line. Many of the folks who grew up around these old trees are still here to share their knowledge. Together, these trees and the descendants of early fruit-growing pioneers living here today, create a living history that few places have held on to. The great work and generous spirit of our early pioneers will not pass forgotten if Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project is successful.

The most favored district in Colorado is what was once said about our area’s fruit growing potential. At elevations fruit production was believed impossible, our Montezuma Valley grew some of the tastiest fruit imaginable. Over one hundred years ago pioneers came from across the country with knowledge of fruit and orchards planting thousands of small and mid-sized orchards in Weber Canyon, McElmo Canyon, Lewis, Lakeview, Arriola, and Lebanon.

Their trees came from bareroot from California, or from scion wood collected back home in Tennessee. They were aware of the numerous varieties that existed at the time, and experimented aggressively. There was a premium on quality. They could breed their own genetics, graft, plant, harvest, and market their fruit. Indeed, much of the early history of the Montezuma Valley is about fruit production and orchard development. The reputation for quality spread far and wide.

In 1904 Montezuma County won three of the four Gold Medals awarded to Colorado at the St. Louis World Fair. Two years later, establishing a record “that has never been approached, much less equaled” Montezuma County fruits took 101 out of the 104 ribbons at the State Fair, 97 of them first place. Remnants of the work of these early pioneers are what led to the creation of MORP some 100 years later.