THE JAMES MILLS ORCHARDS
In the extensive James Mills Orchards is reflected all the natural beauty of California’s horticultural inheritance. Through the vast acres of sunny orange and lemon groves, through the hundreds of rows of trees of peach, pear, prune, olive, apricot, and almond, may be witnessed the state a symbol of life in its ideal conception. In addition, these tremendous tracts of growing things are indicative of the systematic, modern and efficient methods now employed in the development of fruit cultivation. The study of the technique followed by James Mills and his son, James Mills, Jr., in the operation of their wide interests would convey to one complete and adequate knowledge of California’s greatest industry, and a truer appreciation of how artistic endeavor may assist even nature in her beauteous modeling.
The James Mill Orchards form one of the most important industries of northern California. They comprise two separate units. The first of these units lies near the site of Hamilton City, about seven miles east of Orland, California, and consists of nearly twelve hundred and fifty acres. The second unit is situated at Maxwell, Colusa County, California, and embraces approximately seventy-three hundred acres, making a total area for the two orchards of about eighty-five hundred acres, all of which is owned by the James Mills Orchard Corporation, a subsidiary of the American Water Works & Electric Company of New York, and is managed by the Mills, father and son. The Orland unit of the Mills Orchards contains about three hundred and twenty acres of citrus fruits, mostly oranges, and five hundred and seventy acres of the deciduous fruits such as prunes, pears, peaches, apricots, almonds, and olives. This orchard is improved in the most up-to-date fashion, with a dehydrating plant, and every modern convenience for the care of the trees and their products. The second unit of the Mills Orchards, at Maxwell, has within its area the second largest lemon grove in the world, seven hundred acres of lemon trees diffusing their glorious fragrance with the clear air of the Sacramento Valley, and second in extent only to the famous Limoneira grove in Ventura County, California. Here also the Mills have an extensive acreage in grapefruit, in peaches, and in nectarines; and some two hundred acres in Honeydew and Persian melons. Five thousand sheep are likewise being raised on the sunlit hillsides of this rancho, and eight thousand turkeys are being fattened for the market.
The development of the two Mills Orchards began in the year 1912, previous to which time the land had been utilized for the cultivation of grain. Prior to the above date, also, James Mills had many years of experience in the fruit business, having been the managing head of one of the largest citrus orchards in southern California, located at Riverside. He had under his direction more employees than were in any other orchard property in the Southland; consequently during this interval he acquired the knowledge, experience and inspiration to embark upon his present stupendous enterprise in northern California. The Mills now employ from four hundred to five hundred people in the operation of their fruit-growing interests, and have provided well for the comfort of those who serve them. The Mills offices are at present situated on the first unit, near Hamilton City, and from here both units are operated. Large and commodious office quarters are provided, and placed in a setting beautiful as only California flowers and orange trees can make. Indeed, the idea of beauty, its essential character, has been a governing factor in the business as conducted by the Mills. To one who drives through these estates, along the flower-bordered highways and perceives the gorgeous profusion of nature’s colorful and fragrant creations so artistically placed, there comes the realization that intelligence of a high order was used in the planning of this industry, and that the whole closely approaches absolute perfection.
The figures pertaining to the amount of fruit raised on the Mills estates during a year might seem fictitious to the uninformed. The Mills, for instance, are the largest growers of dried prunes in the world, having reached a quantity of sixteen hundred dried tons in one year. Likewise, as high as one hundred and twenty-five cars of oranges are shipped each year. The oldest orange trees are about seventeen years of age now.
James Mills, Sr., has lived in the state of California for about forty-five years, and now resides on his orchards in Glenn and Colusa counties, consulting with his son, James Jr., who has active charge of all the operations. James Mills, Sr., is a native of the Dominion of Canada, and came to California during the early days. He has always been active in the fruit industry, and is an acknowledged authority upon every phase of it, and he has also manifested throughout his career those qualities which stamp him as a one hundred per cent American citizen.
James Mills, Jr., is a graduate of the University of California with the class of 1917, and is fulfilling the duties of his present responsible position with credit to himself and honor to his worthy preceptor. He is interested in civic and public affairs, has served as foreman of the grand jury, and is now a member of the school board, and prominent in Masonic circles. James Mills, Jr., married Miss Kenneth Ross, of Boise, Idaho, and they have become the parents of two children, James (III) and Mary Katherine.
In closing this necessarily brief description of the Mills Orchards and their owners, it is well to make citation of the economic value to the state, and to the Sacramento Valley, of such mammoth horticultural enterprises. Such efforts as have been made in the development of these acres advertise California to the world; the presence of such industries as these gives impetus to the growth of the state, and brings hundreds of people from other parts of the country, many of whom are enabled to make their living in just such occupations or in the employ of those who are captains of their trade. So, to repeat, the glory of California is truly reflected in the marvelous creations known as the Mills Orchards.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.