The Tree Wagon:
Late 1700 - 1800s
Our family comes from a long, unbroken line of agriculturists, reaching back to the original Luelling family: Quaker plantation owners who were farming in North Carolina before the Revolutionary War. They also happened to be staunch abolitionists, which didn't set well with their slave-owning neighbors.
As the Civil War loomed near, the family pushed westward, establishing an orchard and several Underground Railroad stops in the town of Salem, Iowa. Without written records it is hard to number the hundreds of slaves that the Lewellings helped escape from Missouri.
In 1847, Henderson Luelling (never one to sit still) filled two wagons with charcoal, manure, earth and 1000 grafted fruited trees: including apples, pears, plums, cherries, quinces and grapes.
En route to Oregon, an American-Indian war party set out to attack the Luelling family, but retreated upon seeing the wagon full of trees. They left and came back without war paint and helped them with a dangerous river crossing.
Eliza Luelling, one of Henderson's daughters, later related that a Christian Indian told her father that the nursery saved the lives of the family:
"He said that the Indians believed that the Great Spirit lived in trees. Seeing a man crossing the wilderness with a wagonload of them, they thought that he must be under the special care of the Great Spirit, and so they did not harm him"
In spite of everyone's advice that he would never make it across the Plains - Henderson, his entire family, and 800 of the original 1,000 grafted fruit trees survived their journey on the Oregon Trail. Luelling established his orchard on 100 acres in the community of Milwaukie, which is now the site of Waverly Country Club.
The first fruit from the orchard was picked in 1851. The population of Portland at time was 851 people, most of them apparently salivating for fresh fruit...Luelling sold his first trunkful at $1/apple. In today's money, that would be $30/apple.
Ultimately, Luelling's fruit trees became the parent stock of most of the orchards in Oregon's Willamette Valley. He is considered the father of the Pacific Northwest fruit industry.
In 1875, his brother and partner Seth Luelling was responsible for grafting the still-popular Bing cherry.
Central Oregon Pioneers:
The Luelling Homestead
( 1904 - 1940)
Henderson's grandson, named after Seth Luelling, moved from the Oregon City nursery in 1904 to establish a new farm north of Madras as part of the Homestead Act. Seth's wife Cora and their children grubbed out sagebrush by hand, cleared fields of volcanic rock, and hauled water from a spring in wooden barrels in order to carve out their new home. Life was tough for Madras' first settlers, but the Luellings persevered, raising cattle, wheat, potatoes, and a family of six children. Ellen, one of Seth's daughters, married a local farm boy, Fred Klann.
Early homesteaders to Jefferson County ranched and practiced dry-land farming techniques, with wheat becoming the dominant agricultural commodity in the area by the early 1900s. Despite being one of the most successful dry-land farming areas in Central Oregon, local farmers began to experience a moisture shortage after 1925. Hit hard by the dry-spell, coupled with the arrival of the Great Depression, many farmers left. Those that remained realized that in order to prosper, they needed a reliable source of irrigation water.
Construction on the North Unit Project began on July 21, 1938, but was stalled due to the arrival of World War II. The North Unit canal was completed in 1946 and water was delivered to 17,000 acres during 1946 and 1947. By the spring of 1949, all 50,000 acres were receiving water, quickly transforming the community into a mecca for specialty crops.
An Oregon Legacy:
Family Farming from the 1940s and Onward
Brad Klann, the current owner of Brad Klann Farms, started working with his parents Harold (son of Ellen and Fred) and Imogene Klann on the 360 acres his father had been farming since coming home from the service. In 1976, they replaced most of their flood-irrigated ground with two center pivots and two wheel lines. The pivots were two of the first used in Central Oregon. To supply them with water, a large pond was built to store and capture water from neighboring farms' flood fields. Water-use efficiency and conservation remain key components of the Klanns' farm.
After marrying Debbie (the girl-next-door) in 1983, Brad started buying neighboring acreage and was farming up to 840 acres before their children Seth and Katie went off to college. 4-H and FFA are a large part of the family history: Harold, Brad, Seth, Katie and Sally (Seth's wife) were all members. Seth and Katie were both State FFA officers and both graduated from Oregon State University.
Over the years, the Klanns have raised many crops: potatoes, alfalfa hay, radish seed, peppermint for oil, Echinacea, St. John's wort, carrot seed, ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass seed. Currently, they raise Kentucky bluegrass seed, and alfalfa seed. They also raise DNS wheat, 2-row spring barley, and spring rye for malting.
In 2011, Seth and Sally purchased the original Seth Luelling homestead that had been out of the family for over 60 years, and began farming as Mecca Grade Growers. Brad, Seth, and Travis (Katie's husband) are now farming 1080 irrigated acres utilizing mostly overhead pivot irrigation. The farm uses GPS guidance technology in its tractors, pivots, and spray applications.
Seven generations have grown up farming in the state of Oregon. Seth and Sally's sons Jet, Silas, and Cash, are currently the 8th generation of Oregon farmers.