The Orchards - Our True Economic Beginning
By the Westminster Historical Society
The first orchard was planted in 1870 when Pleasant Despain and his family homesteaded the property at what is now 76th and Lowell Boulevard. He planted read and yellow delicious apples, Jonathan and sour cooking apples. He also planted sour cooking cherries. His family canned and stored the fruit for winter but it also gave them a source of income.
When the Bowles family homesteaded in 1871 they also planted apple and other fruit trees for family use and a bit of extra income.
In 1891, Reverend Rudolph and his family came to Harris and purchased a 5-acre plot where they built their home at 7885 Osceola. Most of the 5 acres was utilized for the support of their family such as a vegetable garden and an orchard of apple and cherry trees. All were used for family and extra income. There were a few plum trees but that was for family only.
In 1894, Jacob Fry purchased 765 acres and began the first commercial orchard. Apple and cherry trees were planted. This was also a working ranch and farm. The boundaries were from 80th Avenue to 92nd Avenue and from Lowell Boulevard to Sheridan Boulevard. On May 15, 1906, the farm was sold to Clarence B. Kountze and his brother Harold and the Madison Orchard Company was formed. This orchard provided the residents of Harris a source of income. In 1927, Harry Braugh became the manager of the Madison Orchard. At that time there was a lake, the main house, six buildings to house the workers, 14 out buildings and an apple storage house. The Madison Orchard dissolved in 1938.
In the early 1900s, George Begole (who would later become Mayor of Denver) purchased property and operated an orchard for a short time. He donated a portion of his land in 1912 for the first church in Westminster.
In circa 1912-1913, Samuel Rigg was operating the S.R. Rigg Cherry Orchard on his property at 7600 Bradburn. He did not hire cherry pickers; he advertised that people could come with their containers and pick their cherries.
In 1914, George Plandel, an immigrant from Lithuania, purchased approximately 20 acres with a portion of the land purchased from the DeSpain family. They grew Delicious, Greening, McIntosh and Winesap apples. North of Irving to Lowell were the cherry trees. They also had six peach trees that were for family only. Four acres were taken when the Denver/Boulder Turnpike was being built and they sold their property and moved.
The Apple House was built in the 1920s on the Plandel property. The apples form most of the orchards were stored in the basement. There was not always an apple press on site and the pulp was stored outside until it could be taken to about 38th and Wadsworth. There were times when the pulp was a bit strong. A cider press was acquired which made the process a lot easier. After the harvest and the work was done, a dance was held in the Apple House.
The Shaffer Orchard was started in the 1930s and covered 75 acres. The orchard produce McIntosh, Delicious, Yellow Delicious, Golden Grimes, Jonathan and Winesap. There were also some sour cherries for baking. He did have two trees he prized - one Queen Anne and one yellow Cherry tree. These trees were for family only. Mr. Shaffer did not ship any of his product. He operated a small store on Federal one block south of 80th Avenue where he sold his apples. He also sold cider. You could purchase the cider in gallon containers or by the glass. A small glass was 5 cents. The Shaffer Orchard went out of business in 1950 or 1951. Progress had begun as acreage was taken for the Denver/Boulder Turnpike and later the homes. The growth of Westminster had begun.
Today, the apple house is gone and there is no trace of the orchards that began as a food supply for early residents and supplied a small income to a full-scale industry. Today, you are hard pressed to find an apple tree.