A Brief History of the Smith Orchards Tradition
James H. and Hannah Vanwagoner Smith, originally from Morristown, New Jersey, crossed the plains in 1847, and lived in Little Cottonwood Canyon until 1855. After living in the Salt Lake Valley for several years, James and Hannah moved their family of eleven children to Utah Valley, eventually settling during the 1860’s in north Pleasant View—what we consider the Edgemont area. The family engaged in farming, building and running a brickyard and a molasses mill. They bought an interest in the Curtis Hawley sawmill in 1880, and two years later owned the mill. Four of the Smith sons, Henry V. , Joseph, Ted and John, brought lumber out of Needle Canyon, Pole Canyon, Upper Falls, and Bridal Veil floating the logs down the river to their mill, located approximately where Centaur Press (on University Avenue) now sits. While the brothers logged and fished the Provo River, they noticed a number of springs with a significant water supply west of what we call Bridal Veil Falls. They determined to capture the springs and file on the water in order to irrigate their farmland at the mouth of the canyon. They surveyed the hillside using a 2 x 4, a stick and a bottle for a spirit level. A number of their mill customers owed them money for the lumber they used to build their homes, so many paid off their debts by helping dig a ditch around the mountainside from Smith Falls-- 37,000 feet down the canyon, using just picks, shovels and sweat. The open ditch has been replaced with steel, cement, and pvc pipe over the years, but still largely follows the original ditch pathway built by the Smith brothers. In 1922 the Smith Ditch Company was organized, and still provides irrigation water to farms and homes along the Edgemont bench.
Henry V. and Alvaretta Conover Smith (daughter of early Provo legend, Peter W. Conover) raised their family on the Edgemont bench on farmland they cleared of sagebrush and sego lilies to grow a myriad of fruit crops. Like many of his brothers, Henry was an accomplished musician, playing the dulcimer, and drum in the Provo Martial band and Utah County Fife and Drum Band. While the men were building the ditch and running the mill, Alvaretta was keeping her five children busy and hauling water from the Provo River in four 50 gallon barrels on a wagon to keep the young fruit trees alive. From their early heroic efforts to farm the foothills, a tradition and lifestyle were born. Since the 1880’s the Smiths have been known throughout Utah Valley for their fruit’s excellent quality and taste.
Although a number of the green-thumbed Smiths still raise fruit as a hobby, the Scott G. Smith family is the last of the commerical fruit growers. In the fall of 2008 the family entered their fruit in the county and state fairs for the first time. We took eight first place ribbons, and a Best in Show ribbon for white peaches in the Utah County Fair. At the Utah State Fair we were pleased to receive six first place, two Sweepstakes, and the Best in Horticulture awards. Each year since we have entered our fruit in the Utah County and Utah State Fairs, bringing home awards each time. The awards are fun, but real satisfaction comes in the way our customers enjoy our fruit season after season. We are grateful and proud to carry on the Smith fruit growing tradition into the sixth generation.