Lewiston Peaches

Week 40: #52 Ancestors – Harvest

By Eilene Lyon

My great-grandfather, Charles Edward Smith, never had much success as a farmer. He began in Missouri, then moved to eastern Washington. The farm in Washington entailed dryland farming, because water was scarce.

Once the family moved to Moscow, Idaho, around 1910, he engaged in other businesses and began to earn a good living. First, he had a confectionary/ice cream shop downtown.

Later, Charles started a grocery delivery business. Given the poor quality of roads and the rural character of the region, this enterprise did well. He began with horse-drawn wagons and sleds, but as motor vehicles became available, he bought trucks and automobiles.

According to my grandfather, Laurence Smith, Charles did well in business until my great-grandmother, Mary Lila (Reams) Smith died of a heart attack in 1917 at the age of 45.

The photo above shows Mary Lila and Charles on the left. They would go to Lewiston each year, about 35 miles south, during the peach harvest and bring back a large load. Grandpa recalls the event:

The trip to Lewiston to pick peaches was an annual affair. I remember that we all got into the G.M.C. truck and headed out. In those days we went down the old grade, which was really twice removed from the present highway alignment. At the orchard south of Lewiston the folks would pick boxes of peaches and after a picnic lunch we would head back to Moscow.

We not only canned peaches but we made what was called peach butter. In the processing of the fruit everybody worked, male and female. Your gender was no excuse from kitchen duties. I remember standing on a chair and maneuvering a wooden paddle-like tool to stir the large batch of peach butter. It was necessary to keep the paddle moving so the fruit mixture would not scorch or stick to the bottom of the large container on top of the old-fashioned kitchen range.

A view from the Palouse down the “old grade” to Lewiston, Idaho. Lewiston sits at the confluence of the Snake (right) and Clearwater (left) Rivers.

He didn’t mention how long all this processing took, but judging from the quantity of fruit, I imagine it took more than a full day to do all that canning and cooking. Whew!

Smith16 045
Another view of the 1915 GMC truck with members of the extended Smith family: Charles E. Smith, Ada (Smith) Trout, Callie (Trout) Smith, Floyd Blaylock, Clara (Smith) Blaylock, Ruby Blaylock, and Laurence Smith.

Feature image: The Smiths at the Lewiston peach orchard. Unknown boy on left, Mary Lila, Charles, Ada (Smith) Trout, and Callie (Trout) Smith. (Collection of the author)

Source: Memoirs by Laurence M. Smith and family photo collection.

Charles Edward Smith on Ancestry.com.

35 thoughts on “Lewiston Peaches

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  1. This is an interesting insight into practical people who knew preserving food was more important than worrying about who was doing the cooking. I especially like the photos to go with this story.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The whole family canning together, what a great way to spend a few days…or maybe not, all depends on the the family! Peach itch is enough to drive one crazy! It’s wonderful to have your grandfather’s recollections to go along with the pictures!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Even in black-and-white, those boxes of peaches look really good! The post reminds me of when my mother would drive up to a Quebec apple orchard to get drops to make enough applesauce to last us through the winter. Going into production did take all day and made for a very sticky kitchen.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Love the old truck! I imagine peach butter is similar to apple butter. Yes, cooked to smithereens, like Eileen suggested. I think my Grandma Neal added spice, maybe cinnamon, and a little sugar to her apple butter–then spread on slabs of homemade bread.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mmmm, talk about a peach job that gets everybody involved.

    But seriously, all this talk about peaches has me craving one now. I’ve never had peach butter. Apple butter and pumpkin butter, yes. So it’s on my list.

    Good to see you Eilene.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I used to work at an ice cream shop that made fresh peach ice cream every summer, and we would dread it when peach season rolled around, so I can definitely relate to the nightmare of processing peaches! We’d spend hours on each batch, and that was just peeling, pitting, and slicing. You’d have to soak them in hot water to loosen the peels, and all the horrible peach fuzz would come off in the water and give your arms an awful itchy rash, and then you’d end up cutting your thumbs open trying to pry the pits out, because our boss was too cheap to buy freestone peaches. The worst part was that we then had to dump bags of sugar on top and let them soak, which made them lose all the fresh peach flavour and get so syrupy we’d have been better off buying canned peaches in the first place. What a waste of time!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your documentation of your family’s history is wonderful and certainly an insight into a part of the world I never visited. This must take you hours/days, to say the least, to gather all the information and then write it up.

    Liked by 1 person

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