The Western View: California Ag’s Rich History

Taylor HillmanFeatures, Western View

Recently I was up by the Sutter Buttes, on the Colusa highway, or state route 20, when I noticed one of those historical markers placed by the Clampers. I always check those markers; you learn amazing things.

Thompson’s Grapes

For instance, I once learned that the bandit Joaquin Murrieta did not die at the intersection of highway 198 and Doris Road near Coalinga. I’m still wondering why there is a marker for that; but that’s the Clampers for you. And that’s why I always read their signs.

So I stopped to read the sign on the Colusa highway, and learned that this was the exact birthplace of Thompson Seedless Grapes. It happened in 1872. An English farmer had settled on this spot. He sent East for grape cuttings, and ended up with three of the Lady De Coverly variety. Only one of the cuttings survived and grew into a strong vine. The farmer planted cuttings from that vine, and established a substantial vineyard. Eventually he began selling the grapes and the cuttings in Marysville, and since the farmer’s name was William Thompson, people began referring to them as Thompson’s seedless grapes.

An entire industry sprung from that field, with Thompson’s seedless, or Lady De Coverly grapes forming the basic grape for wine and raisins in California. I looked around in new appreciation – and here’s irony for you: that grape vineyard has been replaced by a new almond orchard. It’s history in motion; one successful crop replaced by another.

I love the history we have here in California, and some of the Western Views I’ve recorded feature that history. I’ve started posting some of my commentaries on a blog; if you would like to revisit some of them, to listen or read them again, come visit www the real western view dot com. And, if you have a question, comment or suggestion about the Western View, I’d like to hear from you – please email me at len at lenwilcox dot com.

And that’s the Western View from AgNet West.