Gold Country - Earlscourt
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Part of the ongoing Gold Country GeoTourism Program. All the fun of geocaching with an added tourism twist; discover tales of our pioneers, unearth geological wonders or reveal magnificent sites of beauty. If you enjoyed this adventure look for more in this series. Collect a sticker from 24 caches and redeem for a prize. Check www.goldtrail.com for more details.
From a small town on the Atlantic Seaboard to the bench lands of the mighty Fraser in Lytton, Thomas Gardner Earl accomplished a journey of some magnitude to find the apple of his eye – in more ways than one!
Earl was born in New Jersey in 1829 and as a young man followed the hordes to San Francisco to join the California Gold Rush in the early 1850’s. Not satisfied, he headed northward in 1858 to try his hand in the Cariboo Gold Rush. But Earl discovered a different kind of gold – golden and delicious apples.
After hearing of the first apple tree plantings in 1862 by a Secwepmec man named Lorenzo, Thomas Earl settled in Lytton in 1864 to plant an orchard. He soon accumulated a total of 300-acres with both apple and pear trees. The early maturity of the fruit, due to the remarkable heat of the Lytton Valley, guaranteed good crops. Strategically located along the Cariboo Wagon Road, the orchards were an ideal place to stock up on fresh provisions. By 1875 Earl was considered the largest apple grower in British Columbia.
And it wouldn’t be long thereafter that Earl would marry the apple of his eye. Anna Ogden Earl was a cousin and they wed in Victoria in 1885. They settled in at Earlscourt Farms and together worked the orchards growing, selling and exporting fruit to as far away as England.1
The Earls would enjoy the fruits of their labour until 1912 at which time he sold Earlscourt Farms to David Spencer. It was a long way from a small Welsh Village to Lytton, but David Spencer was an enterprising young man. His journey to Lytton was not without several stops on the way, as he was destined for great things.
Lured by the glory of gold, the young Methodist preacher made his way to Victoria in 1862 only to find the excitement of the Gold Rush abating. So he bought a bookstore in January and advertised "Valentines, valentines, sentimental and comic, new and beautiful” – weeks before the big day. He believed in the slogan start the demand – don’t follow it.
In 1867 Spencer fell in love and married the apple of his eye, Emma, and started a family.2 By 1873 Spencer sold the bookstore and purchased a dry goods business with a partner. Five years later he went solo and grew the business. Spencers was now in Nanaimo and Vancouver, for a total of nine stores.
In 1912 the company added farms and ranches to their assets, including Earlscourt. Unfortunately, David died in 1920, but the business and properties remained in the family. Several years later it was noted that Earlscourt was now 700-acres with 16,000 fruit trees.
The family sold the department store business to T. Eaton in 1948, but kept the farm in Lytton until 1959 when they sold Earlscourt to rancher Norman Gregory. Gregory’s ownership was short and the property was bought by Raymond Mundall in 1962. He was no stranger to farming, as he had operated a 100-acre almond orchard while practicing medicine in California.
He brought his family to Lytton where they settled in at Earlscourt. However, Mundall was soon discouraged by a fire that destroyed the equipment shop a year later. They kept the farm but moved back to California.
Fire would plague the farm, with the packinghouse burning in 1972. Mundall returned to the farm in 1991 to retire and one year later the greenhouse burned. This was followed by the burning of the mansion in 1992. However, the Mundalls are a hardy lot.
Earlscourt has come a long way, withstanding the ravages of time and fire. The story of Earlscourt Farms apples weaves an interesting history – a delicious golden dream coming true in the heart of Gold Country.
|Detailed access information:
Nearest Community: Lytton, B.C.
Accuracy: 3 metres
Parking: Park across from Earl's Court Farm off of the road.
Access and restrictions:
Public road. Seasonal (ferry closed at high water). Vehicle accessible. Located northwest of Lytton on Hwy #12. From Highway 97 exit into Lytton following Main Street and the signs to the Lytton Ferry about 2k; cross the river following North Spencer Road, and drive past Earlscourt Farms about 3.2k from the ferry dock to a pullout on the right hand side. Please no smoking on this site. Private property.
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum